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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

David Buttrick and Situational Preaching

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tomorrow NPH will preach about "Freedom." In what could be called a hasty move, we advised the church worship team to designate a certain number of themed worsip services that would be aimed at guests, guests we would intentionally invite over a number of weeks. Last December was our first, a "Lessons and Carols" service during the second week of Advent. Tomorrow is our second. We've called it "Freedom Sunday," and have invited scores of guests to come.

So here's NPH's quandry: to preach to a congregation made up of well-known congregants and totally unknown guests . Give me one or the other. I can preach to people who I don't assume to believe what I'm saying, or I can preach to people who I do assume believe what I'm saying; preaching to both at the same time is tricky.

So I have resorted to that master homiletician, David Buttrick, whose Homiletic I think is an invaluable tool for preachers. The book has two whole chapters on "Preaching and Praxis," that is, preaching from situations and not from texts. What Buttrick lays out is a process for describing a situation as it is today (say the problem of media violence), then re-reading that situation and challenging it through a Christian consciousness. It involves bringing the gospel to bear on the situation and then recommending a new understanding of it as well as a new way of living in light of the new situation. Clear enough, right?

Well, the challenge NPH has is describing "Freedom" as a situation. My intent is to describe the situation of "freedom in 21st century America" by pointing out all of the things we are free to do, the way that freedom is so deeply ingrained in our self-understanding. Then I want to challenge that description of freedom with a little Bob Dylan "Everybody's gotta bow down sometime" kind of thinking. In other words, we're not as free as we think we are, because we all serve something, whether we acknowledge it or not (if I hadn't used it last week, I would drop the G.K. Chesterton quote about the world being made up of two kinds of people: "those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don't know it.") The we'll bring the gospel to bear on the situation of freedom in 21st century America. Using The Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, we're going to come with a little bit of Pauline true-freedom-is-freedom-from-yourself. That's right, we're going to drop the New Testament claim that no individual is free apart from the knowledge of Jesus, because only through Jesus do we see what truly human freedom and truly divine freedom really is--a giving of one's self for another. The gospel claims that real freedom is had by laying down your own claim to yourself and accepting God's claim on you in Jesus.

It works well enough as a paragraph; now if I can flesh it out into a real sermon, that'll be great. Wish me luck!


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 12:56 PM


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