Marginally Helpful Preacher Metaphors – Part 2

Last time we looked at the preacher as a video painter, particularly when preaching biblical narratives.  Let’s add another metaphor that will not become a classic, but may be helpful for now:

A Gallery Guide – When you are preaching biblical poetry it may be helpful to think of yourself as a guide in an art gallery. You might be thinking that you don’t enjoy art galleries so perhaps you should skip this point, but hang in there.  Poetry is powerful.  Through stirring imagery and crafted structure, listeners are moved in a way that prose could never achieve. When biblical poetry does its work, it can really work in the heart and mind of a listener.  So what is the preacher to do?  Are we supposed to strip out those poetic features and coldly present the results of our analysis of an ancient poem?  Or are we supposed to preach that poem in words that help the listeners to appreciate the depth of feeling and thought that was stirring in the artist’s heart and life as he wrote the poem?  A good preacher of poetry does for listeners what a gallery guide might do for me: lead me beyond first impressions, cause me to slow down and start to feel with the artist as he or she begins to plumb the depths of the piece before me.  When the preacher does that, he allows the text to do what the text  was inspired and designed to do.  There is more to preaching poetry than that, but there shouldn’t be less.

Next time we will add one more metaphor.  Feel free to make up your own in the comments … I might even develop it as a post (giving you credit, of course).

Feel the Force: Poetry

When we preach poetry, do our listeners really feel the force of it?  Poetry is found in the Psalms and wisdom literature, of course, but also in the historical books and the prophets too.  All too easily we can preach to the head, but not move the listeners with the force of the text.

A couple of thoughts on this:

1. Word images may not carry instant force, so we should build it. For example, when the Psalms speak of the heavens, the stars, the sun and moon, etc., there is a big difference between most listeners today and the original hearers of the text.  They lived under the stars.  Once the sun went down the rhythm of life changed and stargazing was as normal as TV gazing is for some today.  So a brief reference to how amazing it is to look at the stars and feel so small (as in Psalm 8 ) will simply not move contemporary listeners like the original reference would have done.  Today we have to build an awareness of our smallness (thankfully we have NASA and the Hubble telescope to help generate a sense of smallness!)

2. The structure of a poem, the shift in content, may not be apparent to our listeners, so we should clarify and demonstrate it. If the poem was read carefully straight through, the discerning reader would probably pick up on the transition that occurs.  The problem with preaching though is that the extra words may obscure the transitions instead of clarifying them.  There is a major transition at the mid-point of Psalm 73.  Yet if the preacher is droning in their voice, or simply moving methodically through a series of points, that dramatic transition may easily be missed.

3. Emotive language can so easily be made informational. As I’ve probably written elsewhere on this site, it is so easy to dissect a frog to learn how it jumps, but in doing so we stop it doing so.  A dissected poem is not enough for effective preaching.

People listening need to feel the force of poetry so that it can mark their lives deeply, as God intends.