When I was in seminary, I enjoyed finding a word from ancient Greek, from Homer or Plato, that worked its way into Christian theology. Reading a chapter on “the four marks of the church” there was a lovely word, kerygma, proclamation. I had an image of the herald in Homer, blowing a horn to command attention and then making his official announcement. The chapter translated it as preaching – announcing the Good News. So, I found myself wondering what preaching means in different contexts. I was surprised in preaching class to learn that the default is to read the holy text and interpret it to the people. Growing up as a Unitarian, I hadn’t heard much of this sort of preaching, at least in a narrow, Biblical sense. But reading it more broadly, and understanding that the holy text might be found in a newspaper, or a novel, or a science book, or a Mary Oliver poem, or in everyday experience, I realized that, yes, much of UU preaching fits this idea. And reading it even more broadly, I saw that our kerygma would include sharing our stories with one another, our hopes and frailties, our successes and our learnings. Or, our kerygma would include protest signs like Black Lives Matter, and impassioned phone calls to senators urging them to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, or making a persuasive announcement about Fair Districts. (Thank you, Patricia Rooney!)
Here’s another description of preaching, from a nineteenth century theologian; one I heard in seminary and more recently on Facebook, from a UU colleague:
“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are the critics, blaming or praising him. What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage; he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines.” ~ Soren Kierkegard
I like this, but it fails to add that the preacher (me, in this case) always preaches the lost lines that she seems most to need to remember. What do you think? What is preaching for, how do we do it, and what is your role?