Robert Southey, whose 1837 “Story of the Three Bears” is the first version of the Goldilocks story published
Goldilocks as Narrative Christopher Booker in The Seven Basic Plots (2005): Story turns on “the dialectical three", where "the first is wrong in one way, the second in another or opposite way, and only the third, in the middle, is just right." Booker continues "This idea that the way forward lies in finding an exact middle path between opposites is of extraordinary importance in storytelling".
“Just right”: opening sentences Too folksy vs. too formal Too predictable vs. too dramatic Too “out there” vs. “in here” Too long vs too abrupt
Verbal Throat-clearing Opening sentence should be clear, active, and engaging. “Good Morning!” “As I was thinking about preparing my sermon this week I…” Academic lecture “Did you hear the one about the…?” “In our scripture lesson today we find…”
“Just right”: illustrations Too personal vs too aloof Too weighty vs too light Too funny vs too somber Too detailed vs too generic Too hot vs too cool
Overused Idioms “Put a face on it” “the pink slip” “the midnight phone call”
Clunky transition to illustrations The best song is the one that sings itself. Complicated history of how you heard this story. “I once knew a man, let’s just call him Jim” “Listen to this story!” “I chose this illustration to…” “I know I’ve used this illustration before but..” “I saw on television last week..”
“I’ll only give a couple of examples..” “Last week when I was preparing this sermon, I thought about…” “You’ve all heard the one about …” “Now this is a really good example..” “I wanna tell you another story…” “When I was in Israel…”
“Just right”: conclusions Too “out there” vs too “in here” Too long vs too short Too vague vs too specific Too reassuring vs too moralistic Too personal vs too impersonal
Chiding Moralism Where can we find the “forness of God” in the sermon? “we need to… “this week you should…” “we ought to..” “you must” “I want you to…”
Clunky transition to conclusions Full stop pause, then just begin a new idea or thought. “Friends, this is the good news” “at the end of our time together” “My challenge for you this week..” “And I’ll just end with this..” “And in conclusion, I’ll just say…” “I’m going to leave you with this…
“To wrap-up, I’ll just run through that outline again real quick..” “What I want you to take with you this week is…” “I just close out with this… “If you will bear with a little longer..” “I know we are out of time, but.. “Jesus suffered…just like you all have to suffer through this sermon.”
Landing the plane: application The application in a sermon is a suggestion for a way that the text might live in the lives of your hearers. Be cautious about your applications. Scale (“so we, too, should end hunger” or “so, please give $1 to our mission fund”). Assumptions (“you should share your faith story with others” or “I know you all agree with me that we should …”). Application as apology (“so if you don’t mind, maybe you could just consider …”). Guilting (“you really should because you don’t…”). Others… Applications should spark the imagination not shut it down.
THE SECRET OF A GOOD SERMON IS TO HAVE A GOOD BEGINNING AND A GOOD ENDING, THEN HAVING THE TWO AS CLOSE TOGETHER AS POSSIBLE. George Burns