Proclaiming the Word

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Preacher as Artist

5/19/2014

Preacher as Artist

I remember the first time I became aware of the idea that preaching was an art form. To that point in my life the sermon was something to endure before we could get on with “real life.” Even now, on my best days, I fight the tension between the art form and its relationship to life on the road for my people. One teenage summer I was at a Family Camp Meeting. The preacher preached; probably something about holiness. We sat and listened; or tried to make it appear so. I don’t remember anything Nelson Perdue said that night; I simply remember what one of my friends said of his sermon afterwards. Walking down the aisle of the tabernacle with a grin on his face, he simply said, “That was a masterpiece.” I felt in that moment that I had missed something. A fleeting grain of life fell and once again I failed to notice. Was I the only one who missed it? What had he gleaned from those moments that would make him a better person that I squandered? How had his life been strengthened for the journey in an area that mine would remain weak? Not to be dramatic, but his statement changed my life. Something in me clicked and from then on I began to listen. To open up my heart, my mind and my ears to this art form- making myself vulnerable to it lest I miss another masterpiece because of a deaf ear. And somewhere along the way the Word started to make sense. Faith comes by hearing the Word, I remember that from somewhere. Life seems to make more sense when we actually pay attention, but we seem to live at such a distracted pace.

I pray for myself and I pray for those who weekly sit down in front of a clean canvas, Gospel in one hand, newspaper in the other, with the hope that his or her people will pay attention- with the hope that a masterpiece will be created, with the hope that even for a moment the distracted pace will be held at bay so that the Word may be heard. And not because of anything we’ve done, but because of the power of the One who called us to proclaim his Good News. I have to believe that to proclaim the Gospel today is the most subversive art form. Yes, more so than crucifixes submerged in mockery or naked bodies lying on top of each other. To dare to speak out against the kingdoms of this world- the pace, the greed, the self, death, vacant words, remedies that offer only solidarity with no hope of salvation, is dangerous, holy work, and so must be treated with much care, faithfulness and creativity.

As Christian faith continues to be pushed to the margin, the “poet who speaks poetry in a prose world” becomes the critical artist indeed. What a gift we have been given, to be called to proclaim the light of God in a dark world. May you be faithful in your artistry, regardless of the platform God has given you for proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. May you approach this work with a sacred faithfulness, understanding that the lives of people hang in the balance. And, by the power of God at work within them, may they have ears to hear and hearts to obey.

-Dwayne Adams serves as the Lead Pastor at Center Point Community Church in Orlando, FL.