Wednesday, June 10, 2009

7 Preaching Discoveries in 7 Years (#6: The Poets)

See all 7 Discoveries HERE.

1. POSITIVE IS THE NEW BLACK
2. ASK ONE QUESTION, OR EXPLORE ONE ISSUE
3. MAKE YOUR POINTS ACTUAL POINTS
4. WE NEED TO OPEN DOORS, NOT CLOSE THEM
5. AVOID 'SOCIETY THINKS X'...

6. WE NEED THE POETS

The Bible is not just facts, and it's not just history. It's not all argument, and it's not all logic. It's not a manifesto, and it's certainly not a tract. It is full of wisdom, poetry and songs. If we desire to be true to the Bible, then we need to re-find the poets, the wisdom writers, and the prophets.

It is one thing to say: 'Be faithful to your wife'. But it is another to muse with the writer of Proverbs: 'Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.'

So we need a few things: We need wonder, not just exegesis. We need awe of God, not just exposition. We need insight, not just information. We need wisdom, not just your points. We need to wrestle with the Psalmists, and not just proclaim their certainty. We don't just need to 'think Christianly', we need to feel it too. We need Orthokardia.

Buechner on the Prophets:
At the level of words, what do they say, these prophet-preachers? They say this and they say that. They say things that are relevant, lacerating, profound, beautiful, spine-chilling, and more besides. They put words to both the wonder and the horror of the world, and the words can be looked up in the dictionary or the biblical commentary and can be interpreted, passed on, understood, but because these words are poetry, are image and symbol as well as meaning, are sound and rhythm, maybe above all are passion, they set echoes going the way a choir in a great cathedral does, only it is we who become the cathedral and in us that the words echo.
We need the poets.

(For the record, I think I have a long way to go on all these points. Who is not weak...?)

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10 comments:

Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

Your teaching of Ecclesiastes (a number of years ago now) challenged me to consider wisdom literature afresh. Your approach encouraged us to engage with the genre and the intent of the author, it got me reading and wrestling along with Qohelet.

Anthony Douglas said...

I suspect this is a (poetic, heartfelt, emotional, gutwrenchingly honest) plea to hear the humanity of the text.

I concur
Good sir.

(couldn't resist)

xposeoffseason said...

loving these posts justin. #s 1,3,4,5 all hurt my feelings- in a good way.

Luke said...

Great point!

Just about to start a small series on the Psalms in youth group - get them to see the bible for its humanity, emotion and relational aspects rather than just a cold, intellectual set of 'reference books'.

Enjoying the series!

Andrew Barry said...

@ Anthony and Luke

Just a question. Why are you saying that the poetry of the Bible is wrapped up in its humanity? Why is this not also part of the divinity of the text?

Luke said...

@Andrew,
Sorry to be misleading! I was merely saying that the human response to God (and His divinity and character within the bible) is more easily seen in the poetry of the bible. (Probably should have added the response bit!)

Luke said...

Sorry, an addition:

The personal human response to God (ie the Psalmist as opposed to Israel).

Al Bain said...

A fellow Buechner fan. Love it.

Anthony Douglas said...

And me @ Andrew:

I think I'm making a dogs-and-Dalmatians type comment. Take the inverse argument.

"The Bible is God's Word. Therefore it is terribly monochrome, and doesn't have any variation in style or genre."

It's a daft argument, of course, but I suspect that we are prone to implicitly believing it a little. So I rejoiced in Justin's call to read the poets as poets as being an example of refusing to give in to the dull-Bible argument.

When he posts #8 ("The Narratives, The Histories, The Wise Men, etc etc") I will similarly rejoice. Without the bad joke, perhaps.

But thanks for pulling us up on that - once again blogging brevity lets me down!

peter yock said...

amen justin - thanks for the encouragement.

i think the lyrics in our congregational songs are often another victim of the neglect of poetry. looking forward to checking out 'how to read a poem', and hoping it will be of help to a struggling song-writer.