Theology Professor and SNU Alumni Group Awarded Pastoral Grant | Southern Nazarene University


Posted on Wed, March 14, 2012

Professor Marty Alan Michelson and six alumni of Southern Nazarene University’s School of Theology & Ministry have been awarded a $2750 grant from the Samford University Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence.

Funded by the Lilly Foundation, Inc., the grant recognizes the challenges and demands of pastoral work, leaving ministers to feel stressed, resulting in decreasing ministry focus and creativity. The Grant provides this seven member team with funds to collaborate on a book project that will mentor new ministers for the challenges of ministry. The book will guide new ministers preparing for effective life-long ministry.

Wendell Sutton, J.D. is team member and graduate of SNU’s Master of Arts in Theology program. Wendell, a Professor at Mid-America Christian University says, “The M.A. in Theology program at Southern Nazarene University has been invaluable not only in preparation for equipping undergraduate ministry students to impact their world for Christ in their chosen vocation, but also in the opportunity to develop friendships outside the classroom. The Samford grant will strengthen the peer to peer and mentoring relationship I am blessed to experience among ministry colleagues.”

Along with the funds provided by Samford, each member of the team has committed hours for work together alongside personal funds toward their shared times for engagement and writing. Other benefactors contributing generous space and collaboration toward the Book project include: Tom Ward with SandRidge Energy in Oklahoma City and Steve & Chelsee Walden of Oak Harbor, WA.

“SNU is a wonderful starting place on this journey of life-long learning. Many of SNU’s professors have heavily invested in me for extended success in pastoral ministry. The Samford grant will enable our team to share the life-long community with others and hopefully make a significant impact on young ministers that will sustain and carry throughout their ministry,” stated Levi Jones, SNU Alum and participant.

“It is a privilege to work with great learners at SNU who are training for a life-time of ministry” says Michelson. “The seven of us invested in this project are committed to helping young ministers – and people newly in ministry – engage faithful practices in ministry that bear fruit for a lifetime.”

The seven member team, graduates of the SNU School of Theology and Ministry include: Jeremy Graham, Levi Jones, Paul Metcalfe, Marty Alan Michelson, Eli Pagel, Wendell Sutton & Stephen Vandervort.

Homiletic: Moves and Structures by David Buttrick

Chapter 1 – Naming and Narration

            Preaching, as with all language, names a world.  It constitutes the framework by which we live in the world.  However, even as language is capable of naming a world, it is equally possible for language to misconstrue or lie about that world.  Beyond naming, “story” is also another method of language.  As we hear the stories of others, they become part of “Our Story.”  Stories shape and give our identity.

Preaching “transforms” our identity by giving our stories a beginning and an end.  As we locate our lives within the greater narrative of Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, our story is transformed by this encounter with God-with-us.  “Symbolic-reflective” adds to the story the character of Christ as THE character and plot of God’s story.  Thus, we speak “of Christ in Christ” as we preach the gospel.  “What preaching may do is to build in consciousness a new ‘faith-world’ in which we may live and love” (17)!

Topical preaching and “Biblical” preaching and then addressed.  Buttrick claims that both have strengths and yet also contain huge flaws.  “The ‘topical’ preaching tradition tends to name god in the world, but has neglected narrative.  The ‘biblical’ preaching tradition can tell a biblical story, but often fails to name God-with-us in the world” (17).  Thus, the topical method renders God to the “personal” without any reference for the larger social sphere.  The Biblical preaching tradition renders God to past events with little or no applicability to today’s situations.  Faithful preaching must name God in the world.  And, for it to be faithful “naming” preaching must be “in light of the story” of God-with-us.

Chapter 2 – Speaking in Moves

            Language is linear.  Although experience may be experienced as a whole, language is formed into moves or modules.  Thus, like progressive steps, language is about syntax.  Preaching is no different.  Rather, there is a “natural or associative logic” that dictates the flow of the experience being conveyed.

However, the difficulty is that communal discourse takes much longer than one-on-one discussion.  The development of ideas must be carefully plotted (plodded).  To make matters more difficult is that the collective conscious of today’s contemporary audiences generally can only stay focused on one subject for approximately four minutes.  Thus, the preacher must development the ideas intentionally but succinctly within that short time span.

“Homiletic thinking is always a thinking of theology toward images” (29).  As such, we must be clear about our own definitions.  At the same time, we must also be clear about congregational blocks to hearing the message.  Sin (individual and societal), worldviews, social attitudes, and religious distortions can all hinder hearing the gospel.  The preacher must be aware of these issues while constructing the sermon.

Each move has a structure and framework.  “The shape of a move is determined in an interaction of (1) theological understanding, (2) an eye for oppositions, and (3) actualities of lived experience” (33).  For each move we will determine a strategy by which that move will advance.  It is important to remember that we are not simply relaying information but forming “faith-consciousness.”

Chapter 3 – Developing Moves

            Moves are essentially thought blocks that communicate a clearly defined idea.  As such, each move has an opening, middle and closing that are centered upon this one idea.  Buttrick says that you can find where one movement begins and another ends through the use of silence or pauses during a speech.  Thus, this helps the audience transition from thought to thought.  This is equally important because each move must conclude and not be left hanging, as with a question.

Each move does one of three things, sometimes simultaneously.  First, preaching “brings out” a conviction through the use of “depiction, analogy, metaphor, explanation, analysis, and creedal explorations” (41).  Secondly, preaching also “associates” Christian understandings of faith with lived reality.  Finally, preaching “disassociates.”  Thus, it keeps in mind that we are “being-saved-in-the-world” and “distinguishes Christian understanding from our common social attitudes” (42).  Even within this framework, preaching can “isolate different languages related to particular modes of consciousness” (42).  It can be divided into temporal, spatial, social, and personal.  “Human experience is appropriated temporally (diachronic thinking), spatially (synchronic thinking), socially (corporate consciousness), and personally (self-awareness)” (43).

Lastly, each move must start and end strong.  It must have variety and yet remain unified in content.  Contrapuntal excerpts may be necessary but must be handled with care.  These statements can lead to a “divided corporate consciousness.”  As such, the audience becomes lost.  For this reason, preachers do not preach on contrapuntal elements nor illustrate them.  Rather, these points must come “within a move either shortly after the fixing of an initial statement or immediately prior to a strong reiterative closure” (47).

Chapter 4 – Point-of-View in Moves

            “Point of view” is an important aspect of a move.  “Objective” preaching used to be the methodology.  However, there is no such thing as a purely “objective” perspective.  Rather, communal consciousness experiences reality in a variety of “point of views.”  As such, one cannot stand outside of a passage as a disinterested observer.  Instead, we must realize that even third-person preaching styles also have a point of view and perspective.  Yet, to remain in third-person is to take the perspective of God and not allow God to speak, as if we could stand outside of every situation and perfectly analyze it dispassionately.  “Language relates to perception” (56).

“Stance” is the category of time and space.  “Orientation” deals with the aim of our oration.  “Distance” is the measure of consciousness that relates how close we are to the experience being related, whether visual, temporal, attitudinal, or emotional.  In addition, “focal field” relates to us if the subject matter is broad or narrow.  “Lens depth” measures our “degree of self-engagement involved in point of view” (59).  And, “focal depth” details our depth of perspective, whether “surface” or a deep probe of the experience being related.

Chapter 5 – Conjoining Moves

            Out of necessity, there must be some type of bridge to connect movements.  However, these operate by “logical association” rather than simply transitions.  These logical associations are conversational sequences, not merely joining separate ideas together.  And, the logical association must be obvious between the moves.

Some moves will naturally group together into sets.  These can be important to group together to see the connecting logic.  Also, emotion can play an important role in making clear moves.  Emotion must not be suppressed but utilized to engage the perspective.  The first three sentences of the move will set the tone.  If one move to another is a starkly contrasting idea, the emotion must also be starkly different.  Such emotion, though it should not be overdone, helps the audience connect with the content.  The Gospel should evoke emotion from us because we are not mere observers and reporters.  Rather, the Gospel is the “Good News” which must engage the whole person and point of view.

Chapter 6 – Framework – Introductions

            Introductions “give focus to consciousness and provide some sort of hermeneutical orientation” (83).  Introductions are vitally important.  They focus the audience’s attention on a “field of meaning.”  Generally, they should be 7-12 sentences in length.  The first few sentences should be short, to get the audience used to the speaker’s syntax.  The final sentence of the introduction must create a natural stop before opening up in the first move.  Thus, introductions should not be vague, yet the audience should not be able to outline the entire sermon.

The introduction should also orient the audience to how they should hear the sermon.  It provides the hermeneutical key.  And, likewise, the introduction should focus shared consciousness of the audience so that they are participating in the sermon.

Buttrick then outlines several methods of introduction that should be avoided: step down introduction, tangential intrusions, oblique suspense, personal narrative, humor.  The step-down introduction is not clearly defined, but rather goes through a series of steps to arrive at the proposed topic.  This leaves the audience feeling deceived because they have not been able to settle on the topic.  Tangential intrusions break the audience’s focus on the main image and Buttrick asserts that they must not be tolerated.  Oblique suspense does not focus consciousness and may lead to the need for two introductions, which Buttrick says are rarely helpful.  Personal narrative splits the focus of the audience and makes them focus on the speaker, which is detrimental to the message.  Such a method is not necessarily helpful in establishing rapport.  Humor can also serve as a distraction or tangential intrusion.  It is rarely entirely relevant and it may simply be a way for the preacher to say “I’m a likeable guy/gal.”  If that is the purpose, then we have missed the mark.  The gospel is not about us, but about Christ.  Preaching must remained fixed on this purpose.

Chapter 7 – Framework – Conclusions

Conclusions must decidedly stop.  The conclusion needs to be about 5-8 sentences in length.  Do not simply recount the material from the body of the sermon.  Rather, using the images from previous moves can be a useful way of wrapping things up.  The final sentence needs to be terse.  Conclusions are “governed by intention” and its form will be governed by this intention.  Conclusions should be concrete and formed in simple language.

Buttrick then outlines several methods of conclusion that should not be employed or only employed with great caution.  Ending a sermon with a question will not provide adequate confrontation for action or decision for an audience.  Rather, imaging a proper response helps the audience see themselves “doing.”  Quotations in a conclusion risk splitting consciousness.  Buttrick claims they must be avoided.  A return to introduction should rarely, if ever, be used.  Buttrick supposes this to provide no motivation for action.  Rhythmic intensification is a series of sentences that begin with the same word.  The audience shrinks these sentences into one line.  As such, they do not “hear” what is being said and it loses its impact.  Variety in sentence length and structure is important to maintain.  Personal testimony will also split the consciousness of the audience.  The conclusion must uphold the gospel, not the preacher.

Chapter 8 – Preaching – Image and Metaphor

            Preaching is not simply a recitation of salvation history.  It is symbol that forms faith consciousness within the listener.  It is a re-enactment of God’s saving work.  Because God is in some ways hidden, preaching implements analogies to relate to God.  These analogies are from life experience in which human consciousness, relationships, and narratives can each supply images for preaching.  We must keep in mind that not every image is worthwhile.  At the very least, we must be cautious to understand the limitations of our language and of analogies.  “We must ask how an image functions socially (its value, its meaning, its emotional baggage, etc.), and then determine what theological understanding we are attempting to convey” (119).

However, analogies may tend to make God like us.  Other languages have been employed to combat this tendency: language of amplification and language of denial.  Amplification draws a line between God’s reality and ours.  It is a “like-but-not-like” distinction between the human and the divine.  The language of denial uses analogy but creates tension by contrasting God’s nature with the analogy of human nature and life: “God’s love is not like our loves.”

Buttrick makes the case that all of our reality is shaped by metaphors, which are powerful shapers of our attitudes and actions.  To be truly open with ourselves and others, we use metaphors.  Preaching is no different.  “Categories of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ are less than useful… We interpret the world in consciousness metaphorically, and the self in consciousness metaphorically, and metaphor itself is an act of consciousness.  Thus, in preaching, we will not wield two different languages, but, instead, speak one language of consciousness, a metaphorical language, as we bring out the mystery of God-with-us, and bring out the mystery of being-saved-in-the-world.  Faith is formed in a nexus of image, symbol, metaphor, and ritual” (125).

Chapter 9 – Examples and Illustrations

            “Examples emerge from common congregational consciousness whereas illustrations are brought to a congregation from beyond the sphere of shared experience” (128).  Examples will be used to “establish the truth of statements by demonstrating that they are ‘true to life’… to form analogies… as datum for an exploration of ‘what’s going on in our lives’” (128).  No more than one example should be used per move, unless it is a “true to life” example (which then should only include three examples maximum).

Three criteria are helpful in determining the usefulness of an illustration: “(1) There must be a clear analogy between an idea in sermon content and some aspect of the illustration; (2) There ought to be a parallel between the structure of content and the shape of an illustration; (3) The illustration should be ‘appropriate’ to the content” (133).  Only one illustration should be implemented per move.  Illustrations should highlight and strengthen the areas of the sermon that are the most important.  Illustrations should also align, either positively or negatively, with the move’s positive or negative mood.  Models and images need to be consistent between the move and the illustration.  The length should be kept short.

Personal illustrations should be avoided because they split the consciousness of the audience.  Thus, the preacher becomes the subject rather than the subject continuing to be God.  Quoted material   Buttrick also suggests not using much, if any, quoted material unless it is stated in colloquial terms.  The change in syntax between voices can be difficult for the audience to hear.  Biblical illustrations may pose a problem because many congregations are biblically illiterate.  Thus, our illustrations may need to be more detailed and it could potentially cause problems with point-of-view.  Biblical illustrations should be very familiar if employed.  Humorous illustrations should only be used when the preacher wants the audience to laugh, not for other reasons.

Chapter 10 – The Image Grid

            An image grid provides interacting images woven throughout the fabric of a message.  In this way, the images are interrelated and correspond with the underlying ideas of the sermon.  The dominant imagery of the biblical text should inform and shape the images and illustrations used throughout the sermon.

A “reprise” is the use of an image from an early move in a later move.  The moves must not be next to one another and the illustration must be a shortened version in the second move.  “Refrains” are rhythmic speech patterns that come at the opening or close of a move.  Refrains in the opening will “demark categorical repetitions.”  Whereas, refrains in the closing will “contribute to closure and to associate moves in sets” (165).  Also, interrelating illustrations can be “within an internal image or the interrelating of an illustration framework.”  Thus, the images can be connected through direct opposites or through similarities.  But, as mentioned previously, there must always be at least one move separating interrelating illustrations.

Chapter 11 – Language

            The “Communication Model” of language posits that language corresponds to objects.  Thus, language is only useful to the degree that it correlates and is understood to correlate to reality.  It is an objective reality utility for language.  However, this can be problematic for such concepts as God because they “may not be readily available as reproducible ideas in mind” (177).  It is a very rationalist approach to language.

The “Expressive Model” sees words as self-expression.  This is just another model of relativism, which denies the social aspect of language.  Language has shared meanings.  As such, language must be more than self-expression, although it may contain that element.  Beyond that, language often points to a reality much larger than what can be fully expressed by language.  However, in order to even explore these mysteries, we use language with its common rules of engagement.  Preaching employs both communication model and expressive model in its use of language.

Chapter 12 – The Language of Preaching

            Buttrick asserts that the language of preaching is not objective language.  The vocabulary of preaching must be the common language of the congregation, not technical language.  It is “connotative language used with theological precision.”  Buttrick also claims that the stock theological language (i.e., salvation, redemption) may no longer be effective because they have gone out of popular usage.  I would venture to disagree and say that the problem should be addressed, but not by discarding that language.  Rather, it needs to be explained and explained frequently so that the language of the Church is maintained.  Otherwise, the Church risks becoming just like the culture, which is not always conducive to faith.

Language will address both personal meaning and public disclosure.  Neither of these may be ignored.  Along with this, language must ultimately serve theological ends.  In other words, preaching is theological and the language of preaching must be carefully chosen.  Language must be guarded from communicating “conventional wisdoms alien to the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (196).

Chapter 13 – Style and Preaching

            Everyone will naturally have their own style when preaching simply because they have their own syntax.  However, style is only useful insofar as it enables one to communicate the Gospel.  Thus, style will conform to point-of-view and to the structure of the message.  Style will change according to the move and will adapt to better communicate the mood of each move.  The use of rhythm and cadence should also adapt to the image and mood of a move.  Using tools, like triads or doublets, should only be done sparsely.

The language of preaching will be concrete and active, rather than passive.  Adjectives should not be overused and sentences should be kept shorter (while maintaining variety).  Strong nouns and verbs produce vivid imagery and enter into the consciousness of the audience.  The preacher should also avoid using words like: there, this, that, one, man, it, and interrupting conjuctions (i.e., however).

Chapter 14 – Preaching in Church and Out

            “Out” church preaching is the task of laity speaking the Gospel in a world that is not aware of God.  It is an audacious act to name God in the world.  That is why pastors must equip the laity to live out this call to speak the Gospel in the world.  Evangelism leads to integration in the Body of Christ (not a Church growth scenario).  Evangelism leads outsiders to become a part of the community of believers.

“In” Church preaching deals with identity.  Who are we as this community?  “In” Church preaching will send us out to speak the Gospel to the world.  Thus, we come full circle.  Preaching within the Church shapes our identity as we are shaped by the Word.  Thus, as we live in the world, we inevitably act in ways uncharacteristic to our world.  This brings up questions about our actions and character.  The questions are opportunities to speak about Christ (evangelism) which invites others to participate in the Eucharistic Body of Christ.  Preaching is always Christ-centered.

Chapter 15 – Preaching and Authority

            Authority is often conceived of as wisdom or power.  Thus, the authority of Scripture, and thereby preaching, has come under much duress.  Yet, the popular assumptions of authority are challenged by the Scripture itself.  Christ is the power and wisdom of God.  God’s power and wisdom is the cross, which is foolishness and weakness “to those who are perishing.”  Thus, the locus for authority in preaching, which is upside-down to the world’s notion of authority, is found in Christ.  And, likewise, Christ is the center of preaching.  Meaning, preaching is “mediation.”

Chapter 16 – The Place of Preaching

            Preaching, like theology, is talk about God in community.  Likewise, preaching and theology must both be humble and honest where the limits of knowing and language butt up against realities beyond our describing.  Revelation is what makes preaching possible.  “We stand before the Mystery through Jesus Christ addressing a symbolically disclosed being-saved community in a mysterious world” (255).

“In sum, the hermeneutical work of preaching is twofold: We interpret revelation in light of being-saved, and we grasp being-saved in view of revelation” (261).  Thus, preaching will contain knowledge about God and about ourselves.  Preaching is about world-construction.  As such, it names those philosophies and “isms” in our world that are contrary to the Gospel, which is Christ.

Chapter 17 – Preaching as Hermeneutics

            Part of the difficulty of hermeneutics is the fact that language has a cultural context.  Speaking about the history of a text may allow us to understand that world but it may not be easily, if at all, applicable to life today.  Preaching that finds parallels in the text may actually not communicate the core intention of the text.  Preaching from tradition may seem to bring continuity, but it can also hinder new interpretations for new issues and predicaments.  Buttrick comments, “Nevertheless the structure of Christian consciousness is similar in every age.  Thus, we may avoid having to posit either a fixed-truth gospel or a constant human experience, neither of which may be maintained against the fact of changing consciousness” (269).

Buttrick suggests that reading the texts for their intended meanings will free us up hermeneutically.  The “intending” is toward a “being-saved-in-the-world.”  As such, we may use this as a hermeneutical guide to interpretation.  Interpretation also may only work with what is given in the text.  Buttrick then sets out some general helps for hermeneutics: “1) Biblical texts are addressed to communal consciousness, 2) The consciousness which texts address is the ‘double’ consciousness of being-saved in the world, 3) Speaking of God, the Bible tells stories and singles out symbols.  Thus, the Bible must be interpreted within an interaction of symbol and story” (276-78).  Of course, the preacher must always be aware of their own shortcomings and interpretive lenses.  These lenses are not sufficient because they only name the ways we are in the world and do not name the ways in which we are being-saved-in-the-world.

Chapter 18 – Plots and Intentions

            Stories and sermons are not history but contain plots that intend a particular understanding of an event.  “Plot is a confession of faith” (290).  Plot can take on many forms and progressions (i.e., chronological or point-of-view).  It will help the audience form hermeneutical consciousness, which is an act of interpretation dictated by theology.

“Intending of” means that we deliver more than just subject matter in a sermon.  Rather, we bring out the structure of meaning in congregational consciousness.  “Intending toward” is the consciousness of the audience, not simply individuals.  It is a construction of a world-view which we inhabit and live out.  Preaching will be an intending to do because language is performative.  Intentions can also be of primary and secondary importance or emphasis.  These should be considered when preaching, which should necessarily center on the primary intention (though it may also speak of secondary intentions, as well).

Chapter 19 – Structuring

            “Replotting is a process that passes through stages: (1) forming a basic structure; (2) developing the structure; and, finally, (3) putting the developed structure into a script for preaching” (305).  Exegesis and hermeneutical work will lead to a contemporary field of meaning in which we must choose a starting point for our sermon.

The basic structure of a sermon should move naturally and conversationally.  The connective logic should be apparent.  This gives us the bare bones of a sermon.  We will next begin to flesh out the bones of the structure.  This is not the finished product.  We look at how useful the structure is in mediating to the congregation.  And, this becomes the field for brainstorming images and illustrations.  The final structure will allow you to polish each move, as well as, the whole structure so that it is flowing and logically connected.

Chapter 20 – “Moments” in Consciousness

            Buttrick outlines three sermon designs that might be available for shaping “’moments’ in a process of understanding.”  Immediacy, Reflection, and Praxis are the three sermon designs.  “The mode of immediacy does permit passages to fulfill intentionality.  Thus, preaching in the mode of immediacy is particularly suited to narrative passages, parables, and texts which in their moving structure seem to be designed to do in consciousness” (323).

Reflection will not necessarily be tied to the sequence of the passage.  “We are now preaching a structure of theological meaning… The preacher has already reflected on a field of meaning produced by the text.  Nevertheless, in the way it forms and speaks, a sermon can imitate consciousness and indeed form reflective consciousness in a congregation.  Preaching in the reflective mode is particularly suited to Pauline passages, to teachings of Jesus, apocalyptic visions, allegories, wisdom literature, and some prophetic passages” (224-26).

Praxis deals with what we are “doing” and “should do.”  The stages of praxis preaching are: “(1) The reading of a situation usually by a being-in-the-world hermeneutic. (2) The taking of the situation into Christian hermeneutical consciousness where an awareness of being-save in the world grasps symbols of revelation, Christian hermeneutical consciousness may well be critical of a natural being-in-the-world hermeneutic. (3) The locating of a theological structure of meaning through which to view a situation, normally chosen on the basis of structural similarity” (328).

Chapter 21 – Preaching in the Mode of Immediacy

            Buttrick sketches together sermons in the immediacy mode.  He notes that conjoining moves should be done carefully.  They must be connected, but they must also be abrupt in their shifts between moves.  This maintains the intentional plot’s twists and turns rather than smoothing them out.  We must also avoid then/now splits.  We are hearing the story now.

Preaching in the mode of immediacy, especially in parables, will not allow us to psychologically analyze the characters.  Rather, we must only align with characters as the story allows.  We may identify with characters, but only on a minimal basis, lest we lose the power of the parable.  Also, “In preaching parables, we must imply a world countering our worlds that, though mysterious, is present in Christ Jesus” (353).  “What the minister plots, then, is not a story, but a sequence of responses to a story as the story progresses” (362).  “The preacher will notice surprises in sequence, dramatic turns in plot, unexpected episodes, and ask (1) why they were so designed and (2) what they do in consciousness.  In other words we will study plot as an intending to do” (363).

Chapter 22 – Preaching in the Reflective Mode

            Sermons are not topical or textual.  Buttrick counters, “In contradistinction to the two approaches we have described: (1) we have a structure of contemporary understanding, not some situational original meaning, and (2) we have a particular pattern of meaning, not a single idea or topic to preach” (367).  As previously, Buttrick then begins to outline the process of sermon formation.  In homiletic analysis each sentence is analyzed theologically, keeping in mind congregational blocks, and conjuring up analogies of experience.  Thus, exegesis and application are cooperative.

Non-narrative sermons can have a variety of arrangements, depending on the context and audience.  The problem is where to begin.  “But, as a rule, we will enter our field of meaning with an idea that addresses our self-understanding, unless there appears to be good theological reasons for doing otherwise.  Point of entry is never arbitrary, however – where we enter our field of meaning will usually determine how meaning subsequently unfolds” (375).

Additional moves not in the text may appear in the sermon.  They will address theological interpretations and congregational blocks.  Unlike immediacy, reflection sermons will not have an “intending to do.”  The images and illustrations chosen will be used to address theological meaning in relation to congregational blocks.

Chapter 23 – The Reflective Mode: Logic of Movement

            There are several types of “logic” that will govern reflective mode preaching: visual, auditory, allegorical, and symbolic.  Visual logic forms around a picture (i.e., marathon).  Auditory logic forms around what is heard (i.e. multiple voices speaking out).  Allegorical logic appear to be visual, but they tell no story (i.e., “I am the Vine”).  In this case, we should allow “imagery to enter our sermon through subordinate metaphor and illustration” (398).  Symbolic logic point to a reality beyond what is spoken about (i.e., Gospel of John miracles).  Mundane elements in the story heighten and speak theologically about the content of the passage (i.e., disciple naked in the Garden, later clothed in white).

Chapter 24 – Preaching and Praxis

            Preaching will naturally address questions of “being-in-the-world” and “being-in-history.”  This addresses both historical issues and ontological questions.  Preaching will wrestle with both.  Situational questions arise from “limit moments” and “decision moments.”  Limit moments are those times where we sense God’s transcendent mystery and our finitude.  Moments of decision are where we have conflicting desires and cannot quickly come to a decision.  Thus, we have to wrestle with the appropriate action.  We ask what we should do.

We are part of and shaped by our cultural milieu.  As such, we will need to be aware of our cultural baggage and “interpret interpretations within a Christian hermeneutic” (414).  “We cannot endorse a prohibition against human hermeneutics prompted by some odd notion of the purity of the gospel.  Human understandings are what we have, and, as they probe situations, they can demand profound explications of Christian faith in return” (418).

“When scripture is drawn into Christian consciousness by theological understanding then it may address situations appropriately.  We are not suggesting that situational preaching will not use scripture; it may, but we are implying that sermons which slap scripture up against situations may be unnatural to Christian hermeneutical consciousness and, thus, encourage an artificial misuse of scripture.  Motto: Let scripture be scripture” (420).

Praxis preaching will address both social and personal issues simultaneously.  “Though we are representing different foci in consciousness, a language that relates to fields of consciousness will move toward the overcoming of a subjective/objective split” (424).

When should we address situations through praxis preaching?  “(1) To be addressed by preaching, a situation ought to connect with profound ontological or historical questions… (2) To be addressed by preaching a situation ought to relate to the store of unanswered questions which have been filed in consciousness by recurring limit moments or decions moments, curcial questions of meaning and morality… (3) To be addressed by preaching a situation ought to fit into structures of Christian consciousness” (425).

Chapter 25 – Structure in the Mode of Praxis

            How do we begin?  Buttrick suggests the following: “define the situation… isolate and analyze the human hermeneutics involved… study the shape of the situation in Christian consciousness” (428-29).  It will require research!

“The logics have been prompted by the different ways in which the istuations have formed in consciousness – as alternative positions in a debate, as a progression in history as a response to an event” (434).  The rhetorical logic of the moves will be informed by the way the situation is formed in the consciousness.

Faith consciousness is both story and symbol.  As we think through situations, thinking them through theological, in light of the gospel, in a conversational way will help us to form structure.  We should be envisioning the new in response to the old life.  And, as always, the preacher must relate through a shared consciousness, not preaching at a congregation.

Chapter 26 – A Brief Theology of Preaching

            Why preach?  Buttrick suggests five reasons: “1. Our preaching commissioned by the resurrection, is a continuation of the preaching of Jesus Christ; 2. In our preaching, Christ continues to speak to the church, and through the church to the world; 3. The purpose of preaching is the purpose of God in Christ, namely the reconciliation of the world; 4. Preaching evokes response: The response to preaching is a response to Christ, and is, properly, faith and repentance; 5. Preaching is the “Word of God” in that it participates in God’s purpose, is initiated by Christ, and is supported by the Spirit with community in the world” (449-459).

Lord of the Sabbath and Sabbath Rest

Hebrews 4 talks about the place of “rest” within the community of believers.  It begins by pointing out that the community of Israelites that had been redeemed from Egypt were also the same people that did not enter into God’s rest.  “For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.  For we who have believed enter that rest…” (Heb. 4:2).

The author of Hebrews connects Sabbath rest with faith.  If we were to stop here we might assume that faith is something we must strive for, which does not sound restful at all.  If faith is something that we must build and construct, then salvation is not dependent upon God.  Yet, Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the “author and perfector” of our faith.  God “gifts” us faith.

It is the message that we have heard and are simply called to respond in obedience to.  If we are “working” to earn our salvation then we have not truly entered into the rest which God gives.  Furthermore, we have not submitted our lives to the sovereignty of the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5).  If faith and salvation are really by God and from God, then it is not dependent upon us to establish our own faith or salvation.

Rather, we are simply called to respond in thanksgiving and obedience to the good news we have received.  There is an assurance and confidence that accompanies this type of faith.  God is faithful and we can depend upon God’s character and nature to see both the initiation and the completion of our faith.

Hebrews sets up the importance of Sabbath for us by reminding us of David’s words: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (4:7).  Sabbath rest is about giving ear to hear what God is saying.  It is about giving space for God to speak into our lives.

But, it cannot be left at that alone.  The author of Hebrews understands “hearing” as something more than just “listening.”  Rather, “to hear is to obey.”  Our obedience is a sign that we have truly “heard” God speaking.  That is to say, Sabbath is primarily about orienting our lives entirely to God’s w(W)ord to us.  God’s word “is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account” (4:12b-13).

Sabbath opens up space in our busy, hectic, self-centered lives in order to center our lives on the One who shows us who we truly are.  But, God doesn’t leave us there if we are willing to “hear.”  Rather, God transforms us through faith to be “a great cloud of witnesses” whose testimony points to our light and life: Christ Jesus – Lord of the Sabbath.

Sabbath and Surgery

Recently, my wife needed to have surgery.  It was not a very invasive procedure.  It was an outpatient ordeal.  The surgery went fantastic.  I was very thankful to hear.  Upon release my wife received instructions about caring for herself while she recovered.  The main requirement was rest and not to over-exert herself.  Rest does not come naturally to my wife.  Sitting around, for her, makes her thinks she is being lazy.  Her natural inclination is to make herself busy with things to do and accomplish.  But, if she really would like to recover quickly and totally she had to rest and allow the body to restore itself in time.

Sabbath, I am learning, is more than just resting. It’s healing. Rest is an important factor because of what it leads to: wholeness. Perhaps continuing to push ourselves without allowing proper rest and healing is akin to straining the body too much after a surgery. It can only lead to more complications, weariness, and pain. Healing cannot happen without rest. I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Jesus came to heal and make whole. We are restored to new life as Sabbath becomes an entering into the wonderful rest of a Savior that brings healing to our hurts.

Sabbath and Carpentry

For the past month I have been working with a friend doing various carpentry jobs around the OKC metro area.  I have done such work before on a limited basis.  So, most of this has been learning new skills and getting to know my friend better.  This has been a wonderful new experience.  On the days that I have worked, I have generally woken up very early and worked long hours (up to 15) those days.  It can be strenuous work physically and it can definitely test your patience when things are not cooperating as you might hope.

However, with that said, working this job and getting to know my friend better has been a wonderful Sabbath.  My primary occupation is a youth pastor and a Master’s student.  This is who I am.  It can become very difficult to live out each of these “jobs.”  Learning a new skill and spending time with a friend that I can discuss difficult issues has allowed me to pause, reflect, and learn.  It has broken my regular rhythms and has become a means of grace.

Odd that I should say something like that about carpentry and working long, hard hours.  As I reflect upon why this is Sabbath-like, I can only come to one conclusion.  Working carpentry with my friend allows me to rest from my typical concerns.  It is therapeutic.  I can rest my mind and find enjoyment in what my hands have made.  It’s not about how much money I can make, but it really has become a way to deepen a relationship that I value and learn new skills that I find interesting.

It is a life-giving endeavor.  It is a way for me to pray and play, yet oddly gives me rest in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.  Who would have thought that Sabbath can be found in building closets, putting in doors, or trimming out houses.  It’s not primarily about the activities we perform, but rendering our lives open to a fresh touch from God in the midst of the places we find ourselves.

Sabbath and the Contemplative Pastor

I really enjoyed reading this book.  More than that though, it was challening reading Peterson’s understanding of pastoral ministry.  I found myself wrestling with the tensions that he describes.  How do we fulfill our vocational calling while treating those we minister to with Gospel dignity.  That is a difficult tightrope to walk at times.

I especially like the distinction that Peterson makes in outlining pastoral vocation as unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic.  Unbusy indicates that pastors are not bogged down by “running” a church.  Although administration is part and parcel of our “job” as pastors, that is not what we are called to “be.”  Being unbusy means that we are unrushed.  It is not a “works-based” righteousness.  It is important that we embody that in our ministry.

It is about being saturated in prayer and Scripture.  The Spirit, not the calendar, directs our lives.  We are not called to be important (we usually show our importance by how much stuff we do).  It is a vanity that says the Church cannot survive without my effort.  Being unbusy is a resting in God’s work in the Church and that we are called to “be” not “do.”

Furthermore, we are called to be subversive.  We oppose the culture and what it deems we are to be as pastors and as people.  It means that the kingdom of self is replaced by the Kingdom of God in our lives and in the lives of our congregations.  It is looking for the Kingdom that is even now burgeoning in our lives.  And, it is allowing our wills to be subsumed by that Kingdom so that we are partners with God’s re-creational work in the world.

Finally, pastors are apocalyptic.  This is not end-of-the-world proclamations aimed at our people.  Rather, the apocalyptic pastor is one who prays, perseveres, and uses language poetically (as a “maker”).  We are truth tellers that are shaped by the Word and employ words to shape the world.  It is a confidence that God’s work in the world is already happening and will come to fruition and completion in the fullness of time.  Sabbath helps us “cease” so that we are fully present, able to listen, and focused upon what God is doing rather than on what we are doing to bring God’s Kingdom about.

For me, it has been a struggle to stop.  I don’t do it very well.  This has been especially true with finishing school, keeping up with ministry, and finishing wedding and honeymoon plans.  There’s so much to be accomplished and it seems there is so little time to accomplish it in.  Plus, I feel important when I have responsibilities that I am able to juggle.  It shows competence and skill.

But, too often it denigrates into building my kingdom rather than seeking to build God’s Kingdom.  It is an exercise in ego.  And, although I cannot neglect all of these activities and goals, it is important that I realize what is truly valuable and important in this life.  It is vital that I remember that I am valued because of who I am in Christ, not what I accomplish in life.  It doesn’t eliminate all of the tasks that must be finished, but it does prioritize them.  Sabbath is helping me remember this and re-evaluate my life in light of those facts.

Sabbath and Sickness

I have been sick the past week.  It has been rather inconvenient and miserable.  The misery was compounded by the fact that I became ill during Holy Week.  Of all weeks to be sick during the year, this is by far the most inconvenient.  I had parts in the Seder meal, was designing and setting up the service for Good Friday, needed to participate in our church’s Holy Saturday work-day, and I looked forward to Easter service!  There was so much to do and so little time to do it.

To complicate matters, schoolwork and helping to plan our wedding consumed my energies.  I was staying up late writing papers, getting up early to complete tasks, going to class, attending meetings, and reading books.  To say the least, rest was the last thing I could afford at the moment.  It was an inconvenient thing I pushed to the side so that I could accomplish all that needed to be accomplished.

But, the body has a funny way of reacting to all work and no rest.  There comes a point where it eventually forces you to rest.  Exhaustion takes its toll.  The immune system runs like a beat up Ford Pinto.  Finally, Sabbath is forced upon you.  Many of the tasks that I had planned to accomplish or the things I planned to attend were put on hold.  They did not get accomplished.  Work became secondary.

My body, which God designed, had re-oriented my world.  At first, I was not at all pleased with this situation.  I worried about all of the “dropped” responsibilities I had neglected.  I resented my body’s lack of stamina.  Eventually, however, I came to appreciate the “Sabbath” I had been forced to observe.  The world continued without me, the church did not fail, my work eventually was completed.

My lack of productivity was directly linked to my lack of rest.  But, more than that, the lack of rest atrophied my ability to enjoy life at the moment.  Sickness usually does not come at convenient moments, neither does Sabbath.  There’s always something pulling for our attention.  There’s always something needing to be accomplished.  But, finding the value of rest can make all of the difference in how we truly live, not just exist.

John 9: Light of the World

In John 9, Jesus heals a man blind from birth.  It is a miracle that is performed on a Sabbath.  Of course, the religious leaders condemn Jesus for working of the Sabbath.  God does not give us the Sabbath simply to make us stop working.  Rather, the stopping of work on Sabbath directs our attention back to the redemptive work God is doing in and among us.  Getting caught up in the “demands” of the Sabbath without being aware of God’s presence and work leaves the Sabbath as a dead ritual.  It ceases to be life-giving.  Like Jesus, we are to “pause” and see the opportunities for God’s life-giving activity.

I am reminded through this passage that my own routine, even when I am not working, often is not Sabbath.  I am caught up in the theological questions and enigmas as were the disciples.  I discredit those that claim God’s work in their life with this-world explanations, as did the Pharisees and neighbors.  I worry and fear about how other perceive me rather than how I am perceived by God, as were the man’s parents.  I am confronted with my own blindness but have the audacity to question back, “What now?  Am I blind, too?”  I have all of my theological categories, presuppositions, and beliefs pulled together.  If it doesn’t fit in my theological box, I am quick to dismiss it as something other than God.

But what happens when God does something that doesn’t fit in my theological box?  What happens when my blindness is exposed?  Do I clamor back to the comfort of my darkness or am I willing for sight to be given by the Light of the World?  Sabbath, for me, must become much more about stepping into the Light.  It must become about putting down my guard, putting aside my box, and presenting myself before a God whose light exposes my deepest shadows.  Sabbath may be about ceasing so that we may rest… but it must also be a ceasing from striving to control, constrain, and categorize God’s work.  It is a rest in which our attention is drawn back to the One “sent” from God so that we may “see” and be saved.

Sabbath and Silent Salvation

The silence is deafening.  No mighty wind, no earthquake, no fire… just silence.  Sabbath and silence.  “Be still, and know that I AM God.”  Why is it that I find the silence so difficult to dwell in?  It could be that the culture around me saturates itself with busyness and sound and activity.  But, I am coming more to realize that this is not even the issue.

The difficulty with Sabbath and silence is that I have to come to terms with myself.  I come face-to-face with myself, with my finitude, with my creature-ness.  My world is re-oriented… but not around me.  I find that I am lacking, insufficient, and inadequate.  In short, I’m not God.  I have come to the end of myself and have entered fully into the silence.  It is in this silence that I hear the still small voice.  “Be still, and know that I am God.”

In the fire of that silence, I am changed, purified, and humbled.  I am creature, fully human.  It is not because of what I do but because of who God is.  Like Moses, I find myself on holy ground in the middle of the mundane desert of life..  Like Isaiah, I find myself a sinful man in the midst of a sinful world needing God’s transformative work in my life.  And, all too often, I find myself like the disciples sleeping while I should be praying.

To be honest, silence is difficult to enter into fully because there is always the probability that God will reveal Himself and may change us.  We drown out the still small voice, hoping to muffle the call of the Holy One.  Change is rarely something we chase after and accept willingly.  We inundate ourselves with noise and activity because to enter in Sabbath silence means we might meet God and be called to a new life.

But, we are comfortable with the old way.  We want to be God.  We want to call the shots.  We want to be in control.  But, it is only when we recognize our created-ness and center our lives upon our Creator that we become fully human and fully present.  It is only in this that we become truly free.  Sabbath re-orients us, reminding us of who we are and Whose we are.  We leave the noisy productivity of Egypt and walk into a desert dependence upon God.

Sabbath as Kairos: A Salvation Event

Robert Webber reminds us of the importance of time in worship.  Chronos is ordinary time.  The regular moments of every day that sequentially move us from minute to minute, day to day, and year to year.  Kairos is a different measure of time.  “Kairos is time that marks a crisis or a turning point in history” (Worship is a Verb 156).  These moments of time are the interjections of God’s work in the world.  Scripture speaks of various moments in time that have been Kairos moments for God’s people.  The God-moments forever transform God’s people and mark their journey.

Webber writes, “Like the Hebrews, Christians also have a kairos moment which informs and gives meaning to historical sequence.  It is the Christ-event – the birth, life, death, resurretion, ascension, and promised return of the Savior.  As Christians, we confess that all time has a center.  And that center is Jesus Christ himself who has redeemed all things… From this center, this kairos event in history, the meaning and significance of all time radiates.  It is through the remembrance of the Christ-event in worship that we are able to sanctify all time.  Therefore, time in worship now becomes a means through which we can enter into the service of the King… by recapitulating the kairos event, [we] can mystically and symbolically represent time as redeemed and proclaim the birth, life, death, resurrection, coming of the Holy Spirit, and return of Christ” (156).

Sabbath is not chronos but kairos time.  It is a crisis moment or turning point in our lives, a place for God’s interjection into our normal time and routine.  Sabbath provides space for those God-moments that form us as God’s people.  It is an opportunity for our lives to be transformed from the pharaoh-driven world to the Exodus rest of God’s salvation.  Kairos time still impacts and orders our chronos time.  It charts a course and directs our path.  Sabbath centers our lives upon Christ, who is the Lord of the Sabbath.  In so doing, we are directed to enter the chronos of life as holy people made in the image of God.  Sabbath, especially in our commercial and commodity laden culture, may well be a salvific event for us and for the Church as we recognize our value is found in Christ not commercialism.