Anyway, prompted in part by friends who matter to me, I'm digging into the draft file and pushing "Publish" today. Here's one that sat there for a couple of months. It is what it is.
I never got an A from David Buttrick.
It wasn't for lack of trying. I did get a hard earned A- and you'd a thought I received highest honors!
I followed his method (still do, for the most part). I learned about homiletical moves and how their construction and sequencing, if done well, can spark the consciousness of the gathered people.
My problem with Buttrick, or better stated, his problem with me, was that I found it difficult to proclaim Gospel absent the context of the lives I knew, including my own. Any homiletics professor will tell you that making yourself the storied example for your sermons is too easy. Too often we do it when we've not done the due diligence to find resonant stories in the world in which we live that transcend the particular to reach the universal.
The other danger of placing self as the prime example of too many stories is that after a while it makes the listener wonder if there's anything or anyone more important in the preacher's life than the preacher---and how good he or she looks by having told on themselves or how heroic they are after having yet again come to save the day, in Jesus' name, of course. Or, the other end of the spectrum is making one's self the butt of every joke, the case study of what not to do and who not to be, the perpetual martyr.
Don't let the pretense of modesty fool you....preachers can be and often are driven far more by ego strokes than living the sacramental life. (Oops...was that too much?)
And then there's the other danger about stories told. It's the story you tell that's not yours to share. Contrary to what many may think (including and especially preachers), not every story you hear or over hear is yours for the taking--or better stated, for the stealing. Not every story we could tell we should. Not every story is in the public domain, and there are very good reasons for that.
And yet, at the core of our common life and mutual commission is "story." And it's a doosey! It's one we are to tell, one we are to live. It is the very thing that informs every story we tell and just as every story we tell is to inform it.
So, when I observe the objectification of a story, ostensibly to magnify "the" story to which we've pledged our lives..it offends me to no end. Because to tell someone else's story as if it's there's to tell is to be less than truthful. It lacks integrity, and it harms "the" story we're supposed to tell.
And it's done way too often by those who know better.
Anybody in Paducah last June? There you go.
It matters not if the one telling it carries the label of Rev'd, Lay Leader, cool Guest Preacher wearing indigenous attire, or Bishop. If in the telling of a story the person being talked about is referred to less as a person and more as object of the life they've lived, then you have a clue.
Drug pusher. Crack whore. Drunk.
Might as well call them tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners.
And yet I'm reminded of how Jesus related to those folks...not as objects, but as people.
The ones telling stories that are not theirs to tell often reveal way too much of themselves unaware.
It happened often at Annual Conference. Sometimes the person being objectified was someone I didn't know. Once it happened and the person was someone I did...someone I call "friend."
It's one thing if the person who is the subject of the story seeks to bear witness to that in their lives from which the grace of God liberated and is liberating them. It's quite another if someone else does it without foreknowledge or permission. It could be argued that the story was so compelling it just needed to be told because people got so much out of it. But whether or not the masses liked the story is no excuse for telling that which is not yours to tell, especially when the one being objectified is in the damn room. What is popular and what is right are not the same.
To witness something so "violent" under the auspices of the "holy" shocked me. It's not the first time I've heard it done. Truth is, I've probably done it myself. I suspect my sensitivity to such things is higher than it's been in the past. But what I came away with from that experience was that the chasm between where the Church thinks it needs to be, and is out of systemic desperation "calling us to action" to abide, and what I believe I'm called to bring to it is ever widening.
The transition from "relevant" to "relic" is not nearly so far as one might think.
Hmm, relic...an object esteemed and venerated, no; a remnant left after decay, perhaps; a trace of some past or outmoded practice---there it is, that's the ticket.