Thursday, February 28, 2013
The humble, profound thing called preaching
Speaking is the most human thing we can do. Lowly and normal and profound all at the same time. We can email or string video images together on You Tube but speech makes us human. Despite the circus claims of scientists and charlatans, animals such as chimps or dolphins cannot talk. Only humans, made in the image of the Triune God, the God who speaks, do that.
Which means there is hope for the sermon. If the Word became flesh, if God created with His voice, if humans are at their most human when talking, the sermon can never fully wither away. For we crave such face to face talk. The more we retreat to lonely computer stations and darkened dens, the more empty we feel. Our ears are hungry.
The human voice, aligned to the truth of ancient, Biblical, credal patterns of speech, is not an outdated mode of some sort of generic “communication,” it is itself a Christian message. To talk Christ, to proclaim, to “evangelize” in the original sense of the word, is itself a radical Christian message.
When a pastor steps into the pulpit and addresses people with his voice, he is not simply imparting information that might be imparted in multiple other ways, he is showing people how to be human and how to be Christian.
The church, in holding onto the sermon, is not engaging in blind preservation and refusing to change in response to the new realities of the digital age. She is holding onto a bit of what it means to be made in the image of God, to truly be a person. We were made to speak and to listen. The Gospel is not bare information, it is a living proclamation that, in its declaration and reception, restores us to our true humanity.