Sunday, 20 March 2011

Preaching as Testimony

Now I don't plan to make a habit of this but here's another post quoting a chunk of a book on preaching.  I guess that's what happens when you resolve to post regularly(ish) on Sunday evenings and then you spend Sunday afternoons preparing for Monday morning's homiletics class.

We are looking at preaching as a form of testimony so we're still in Ricoeur and Brueggemann territory. However, to spare the class from my Brueggemannamania I'm channelling what he does with Ricoeur's testimonial hermeneutics through Anna Carter Florence.  This comes from her excellent Preaching as Testimony.  [Yes I know I should have turned that into a nice convenient amazon link but If you thinking of getting a copy of the book - and you really should - I'd quite like you to do it via the Stuff I Recommend box on this blog.  You'll need to go to page two of the widget.]

… preaching cannot be the proclamation of absolute truth; it never has been.  There is no such thing as infallibility or inerrancy; there are no universal truths for us to access or own at will.  There are only fleeting glimpses of the truth we see and confess in Jesus Christ, the truth that encounters us, in concrete human experiences, by the grace of God.  Preaching is testimony: a proclamation of what we have seen and believed.  It is claim and confession rather than absolute and certitude.  And because the context for testimony is one of struggle and divergent opinions … a sermon like any other testimony, must make its way in the world as best it can, through an invitation to believe rather than a command to obey.

All of which sounds rather appealing to this preacher.  An approach to preaching with more modesty and thereby, more authority.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

On Re-reading Brueggemann

Just been re-reading the introduction to Finally Comes the Poet in preparation for tomorrow's homiletics class when we'll be looking at preaching, poetry and imagination.  I'd forgotten just how good it is.

Walter Brueggemann's writing about preaching does for the preacher what he suggests the preacher should be doing for the congregation.  This is truly poetic, visionary, prophetic writing construing the preacher as a wielder of words and spinner of worlds potently prophesying.   At times his vision might sound unrealistic, too fantastical for the mundane reality of Sunday by Sunday sermonising.  But that's the point.  Here is inspiration, here are words to thrill, an evocation of the possibilities of the sermon daring the preacher to believe.  Thanks Walt.

If you get to preach but haven't read it, do yourself favour, treat yourself.  If you have read it, do yourself a flavour, remind yourself.  Here's how he ends his intro, wrapping up, or rather unwrapping still further, what he's had to say about the sermon as a four way coming together of text, people, preacher and eye popping Holy Spirit.

The meeting involves this old text, the spent congregation believing but impoverished, the artist of new possibility, the disclosure.  The Prince of Darkness tries frantically to keep the world closed so that we can be administered.  The Prince has such powerful allies in this age.  Against such enormous odds, however, there is the working of this feeble inscrutable, unshackled moment of the sermon.  Sometimes the Prince will win the day and there is no new thing uttered or heard.  Sometimes, however, the sermon will have its say and the truth looks large - larger than the text or the voice or the folk had any reason to expect.  When that happens, the world is set loose toward healing.  The sermon for such a time shames the Prince and we become yet again more nearly human.  The Author of the text laughs in delight, the way that Author has laughed only at creation and at Easter but laughs again when the sermon carries the day against the prose of the Dark Prince who wants no new poetry in the region he things he governs.  Where the poetry is sounded the Prince knows a little of the territory has been lost to its true Ruler.  The newly claimed territory becomes a new home of freedom, justice, peace, and abiding joy.  This happens when the poet comes, when the poet speaks, when the preacher comes as poet.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


Well, it was Phronesis what did it.  I've spent most of the past three months demonstrating my ability to multi-task.  In a sustained manner I have simultaneously being doing two things: 1) telling myself that it would be good to start blogging again and 2) not starting blogging again. (The adverts in Dec and Jan don't really count.)

My blog abstinence is not evidence that I have got my church calendar all to cock, confusing epiphany with lent.  It's nothing other than the old road to hell thing. Three months is quite a delay don't you think?  If that, is there are still any you's out there reading this stuff.  (Helloooooo!) I'm sure my blog is actually echoing like a big old empty cave….  ave ave ave.

Of course this is not the first time I have had extended blogging down time.  When this has happened before something or other has come along and got me at it again, something like a cracking film or a stimulating lecture or a mundane insight that seemed utterly brilliant at the time.  This time though, as I said, it was Phronesis what did it.  By 'eck they're good!

Went to see them a couple of nights ago at Band on the Wall, Manchester's splendid live music venue.   How good are they?  Well if you kind of quite like jazz but are absolutely sure you don't get the stuff at the more creative/avant garde end of the spectrum Phronesis are the band to change your mind.  Talk about energy!  Talk about imagination!  Talk about swinging!  Talk about tight!  Piano that is by turns lush, frantic and icily spare.  Drumming that really really really does use the kit as a melodic instrument.  And bass playing that actually made me change my mind about bass solos.  No, really. 

If you want a listen I'd start here or better still go hear them live.