57.3 Read and Proclaimed
For forty years the people of God wandered in the wilderness. They were living in “liberation limbo,” a dry and dusty place somewhere between Pharaoh and the Promised Land. Exodus 17 suggests that this was the first “protestant” congregation—the people protested bitterly to Moses that they were parched with thirst. God answered their prayer, giving them water from a rock.
(Today, we sing a song of holy insistence in the key of confession.) Verse One. Do we know we are texts read in the carefullest of ways? —lest we forget our constitution, the declarations that got us here, stay us here, in history’s substantial yet somber junctures.
In the second chapter of Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability, Robert McRuer analyzes the case of Karen Thompson, whose live-in partner, Sharon Kowalski, was disabled in a car accident. Because this happened in the 1990s, these two women’s relationship could not be legally recognized. Kowalski’s medical care and consent defaulted to her parents, who denied Thompson the ability to visit Kowalski and insisted that Kowalski was too disabled to go home, effectively incarcerating their daughter to a medical facility.
When my preaching career began in earnest in 1994, I was a minister in training at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, California. The worship experience there was not governed by chronos time, but by the kairos time of the Holy Spirit. Sunday worship services started at 11:00 a.m., but we were never sure about the time they would end.
A lectionary is a list of biblical passages to be read in Christian worship. Presumably, these passages serve as the basis for the sermon, homily, or meditation, although, having swallowed and survived a lifetime’s dose of Christian sermons, I am aware that this presumption is, well, sketchy.
“Translations are the devil’s way of confusing Christians so we don’t all read the same Bible.” Quite a theological treatise from my Lyft driver as he drove me to the airport. Many people share his suspicions, neatly summarized in the quip: “If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.”
“Muslims are the famous gospel singers in Pakistan.” This statement always surprises those who talk with me about worship and music in a Muslim context.
Blessed are you, Holy One, God, Creator of the universe. You bring forth bread from the earth, and create the fruit of the vine, to sustain our lives and gladden our hearts. They shall be for us today the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, offered in grateful remembrance of Christ.
Sacred texts are a foundation of most faith traditions. In them discernible wisdom can be found that instructs the tenets of belief, faith, and even hope itself. Communities pride themselves in learning from and reading these resources in corporate settings.
An integral part of our faith formation, musical discipleship takes many forms. Just as general literacy empowers Christians to navigate the Word, musical literacy strengthens our worship. Without notation, worship can only include improvised or memorized music.
When preachers have read and proclaimed the same texts over and over, preaching the same lectionary for several cycles over the years, we reach a point in which we yearn to find new messages in the same ancient texts.
In Protestant traditions, text and proclamation—spoken, sung, or silently read—are paramount to Christian formation. Broadening the phrase to include physical pronouncements involves the senses, thus why artistic processes help enlarge the incarnational dimensions of proclamation. This is one reason why I, a trained artist and theologian, decided to establish and facilitate a series of art-based, leadership-development workshops for pastors.
Preaching the Word begins and ends as invitation. Here, you will find a hand extended for the journey through Karoline Lewis’s chapters that promise not tips or gimmicks, but rather a call to conversation with “new dialogue companions in our homiletical journey.”