Today in the morning we talked about MLK Jr. and the famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” We prepared for this discussion by reading Richard Lischer’s outstanding book, The Preacher King.
The use of set pieces that are repeated by the preacher is present in the African-American preaching context and I think it could be effective in my own situation. King would develop a piece of a sermon, an illustration, a movement, or a play of words and insert those set pieces in his preaching throughout his ministry. The people listening to him preach would hear the beginning of one of those pieces and they would know how it would finish. There was a shared community built by knowing the story together. Because he was a great orator these pieces did not become stale.
We also watched an outstanding video presentation by Todd Farley on movement by the preacher. He is a trained mime and is also a pastor. His use of space is purposeful and encourages the preacher to make every motion have a meaning that aids the listener. The video was from a DVD that is included with the book Performance in Preaching.
In the afternoon we had opportunity to share our recitations of either the Gettysburg Address or a piece of Scripture of equal length. I chose the Gettysburg Address and found it difficult to synchronize both the memorization of the passage and the stage blocking. I needed prompting on one line and I found that my hands expressed my nervousness and my gaze revealed that I wanted to look anywhere but at the people in front of me. Clay Schmit suggested that if I don’t want to look at the people in front of me I should make my gaze appear purposeful, as if I meant to look to the battlefield.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous speeches in US history. I enjoyed in the morning the opportunity to talk about the purposefulness with which Lincoln wrote that address. Later we talked about how the creative process is not like winning the lottery. Some imagine that if you just do a bunch of single or even large bunches of attempts you will finally hit on a winner. Creative writing is a purposeful event and I should expect that the first draft is never going to be the final draft.
When preaching at the 8:30am service I should never give those early risers the first attempt at the sermon. The mirror in my house should get that first attempt or maybe the steering wheel in my car on Friday or Saturday would be a good audience for that first attempt.
The next topic we covered was the characteristics of writing for the ear. We covered many terms to describe different ways to write for the ear, and so imagine an English class. (Alliteration, assonance, etc)
I ate lunch in a lounge and worked on preparations for the afternoon when we each attempted a 4-5 minute retelling of an Old Testament story. I chose the story of Jacob meeting Esau. My presentation went well enough but I appreciated the feedback I got from Clay Schmit and the rest of the class. Each of the presentations were amazing for the one day of preparation we were given.
The performance of preaching needs to be more purposeful. The task is not to be simply more interesting. I do not seek to become the spectacle of the morning. I need to demonstrate through my preaching the remarkable interest I have in sharing the good news. I know in the past people have told my that my sermons are easier to follow when I appear interested.