Sunday, November 20, 2011

Principles for preaching- mix well

Every now and then I listen to one of my sermons (off the internet). Often as I listen I think, all the ingredients are there, but it just hasn't come together as well as I hoped. I need to add a little time in my preparation for kneading.

Sometimes I make bread. It is fairly easy. You just throw together some flour, some yeast, some water and a pinch of salt. Yet if I simply threw the slurry of ingredients into the oven, the bread wouldn't be very tasty. What is required for bread is kneading.
Punching and pulling the ingredients so that the gluten in the flour binds with other glutens, so that it becomes rich in connections, fibrous, dense and stretchy.

I need to knead my sermons.

What might that mean?
Well for the current one I'm listening to, I set up really good catchphrase in the introduction. (The story of the boy and the Zen master from Charlie Wilson's War, with the catchphrase 'We'll see', to lead into the great reversal that will come at Jesus return).
Anyway, listening to the sermon, I realised that I could have added this short catchphrase into every point and illustration I had, but instead I left it to the end to return to it.
Knead away to make those connections.

Other times it works the other way. I make a point three quarters of the way through the sermon, and I realise that if I had worded my introduction slightly differently, the connection between them would be clearer. Or if I change my introduction slightly it can cover all the points I want to make in the sermon. Often you think you are trying to do one thing in an element of a sermon, but there are surprising connection with other parts. Doing a little kneading allows each part of the sermon to have maximum payoff, maximum resonance with the whole.
Knead away, so that the language from all the ingredients bleed into each other to make one tasty meal.

Going through this process of kneading often means there are large chunks of text that I must, and happily can, throw out. As each 'ingredient' is used to interpret and reinforce the others, I can be far more economical with my language.

Kneading means your sermon approaches poetry.

"What the reader craves, and I've spoken here already about the reader's primacy, are beautiful accidents, surprise and astonishment in the poem, doors opening outward to true vistas for the first time. Something built up from within, not merely extracted from the exterior. The connective tissue is the evanescent need to become part of something that is larger than humans or mere language, but parts of both compressed into radioactive poetry; the right words in the right order, lending light. A poem is an animal big enough to ride, teeming with unexpected energy, charting a course into the unknown, moments of agility and delight that do not throw the rider off its back, but serve as reminders of the exquisite muscularity and nimbleness of the animal, and the reader is made more beautiful as well, by having ridden it."

The Rhythm Method, Razzmatazz and Memory:
How To Make Your Poetry Swing
Keith Flynn

1 comment:

byron smith said...

Praise God for preachers who are not scared of (or worse, simply ignorant of) poetry. Poetry is when language starts to sing.