Yesterday I described two masterpieces of the art of preaching Proverbs (click here to see post). Both the explanatory emphasis of the first and the applicational emphasis of the second affirmed the possibility of a full-length single saying sermon from the Proverbs. What were some of the key features of these sermons?
1. Repetition. In both cases the preachers repeated the main idea (the proverb) multiple times. It never felt forced or tedious, but it did tattoo the truths on the hearts of those listening. Proverbs are designed to be memorable. While we don’t have the memorability of the original language to aid us, repetition certainly helped.
2. Memorability. We don’t have sound-play in the wording like the Hebrew, but memorability can be achieved in other ways. In the first example Haddon Robinson achieved memorability by pursuing visualization. That is, through vivid description, the listeners could see what he described, and having seen it on the screen of their hearts, they wouldn’t forget. In the second example, Gene Curtis achieved memorability by a different type of sound-play. Not the sounds of the words, but the clever use of a repeated first line of a song. Actually, this musical marker was so effective in flagging up the need for the proverb because he ended the mini-rendition by tweaking the tune into a melancholic minor key each time – a refrain introducing the main idea each time.
3. Non-linearity. Neither sermon imposed what felt like a foreign sermon structure on the text. There was no overt three point with sub-point presentation involved. Both felt relaxed and slightly circular, yet on paper could have been defined using standard outlining, of course. There wasn’t the urgency of a narrative, or the driving progression in logic of an epistle. The structure seemed to fit the genre.
4. Application. Both sermons were marked by specific, tangible, relevant and vivid application. While the one placed greater emphasis on explanation, both felt absolutely preached to the listener, to mark the listener and to bring about transformation. I’m sure many of us could manage it, but surely it must be wrong to turn a practical, vivid, life truth, into an academic curio. It takes great intellect to make something simple and clear, but a lesser preacher can impress and confuse the listener. Hey, was that a contemporary antithetical distich? Nice.
Tomorrow I’ll finish the series . . .