Thursday, October 04, 2007

What it Means to Preach

I meant to post earlier, but life happened this week (more on that in a post to come).

Preaching. What's the first image that comes to mind when you hear this word? More than likely it is a robed-figure standing in a pulpit, or someone more casually dressed sitting on a stool or walking around on stage...all talking to a gathered assembly of people.

For me, I don't get this image. My first thought is more akin to St. Francis of Assisi's statement: "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words." I picture preaching to be more about incarnating God's love to people than it is speaking to a congregation.

So you all can probably imagine my dilemma as we are asked to write our theological context for preaching, predicated on the assumption that preaching is about verbally articulating the faith.

Hmm.

Pulpit preaching is just one small part of how we as Christians preach with our lives. We are always, always preaching - always saying something about the love of God through Jesus Christ in our actions and in the way we treat other people. I really love this line my pastor said in a sermon a few weeks ago: "It’s not when we tell people about Jesus, we’re already doing that. It’s what we’re telling them through our actions."

So in this respect, we are all - clergy and laity alike - preachers of the Word. What gives pastors special authority? You tell me. Is it more scholarly knowledge? A special vocational call? The experience of seminary? Ordination? I don't really know...all I know is that I don't think preaching (when we do it on Sunday mornings) can't just be one person speaking to a group of people.

I think preaching in the context of worship can be ritual, group discussion, art, silence, or a service project. I really love what Tim Lucas of Liquid Church in Morristown did when they canceled weekend services to go serve others. Check it out!

More and more I'm beginning to understand that preaching is more about how we live out the Word of God than anything else. Because if we - both as individuals and as communities of faith - aren't doing God's Word, then what we say from the pulpit is meaningless. Our preaching must come out of a love and a desire to incarnate God's love to a broken and hurting world. And that is what preaching means to me.

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