Monday, July 17, 2006

Peculiar Speech

Speaking of speaking, here are a couple exerpts from United Methodist Bishop William Willimon; the first is from his book Resident Aliens (co-authored by Stanley Hauerwas), and the others are from “Peculiar Truth: Postmodern Preaching” in Modern Reformation, Vol. 12 (July/August 2003).

"[We] operate within a domain of distinct discourse. We talk differently here, working within a certain 'language game' to which everyone here subscribes for the duration of the conversation.... There is no way for us preachers to weasel out of the baptismal truth that we preach within a distinct universe of discourse. We talk funny."

"All faithful preaching begins as an act of a determinately self-revealing God, Yahweh, who loves to talk, who delights in argument, declaration, epistemological conflict, assertion, and promise, who loves to create something out of nothing through nothing more powerful than words....

"[Postmodern preaching] will be speaking that worries more about obedience to the text than about the allegedly contemporary context of our speaking. It will trouble itself more over proclaiming the Word than over any lack of contemporary response. Realizing modernity’s grave limits, it will be preaching that is willing not to be heard, understood, or grasped by affluent, early twenty-first century people. It will be preaching that delights in the convoluted thickness of the biblical text.

"We preachers ought never to forget that what Acts 2 wants us to call the gift of the Holy Spirit, is what the world attributed to too much booze too early in the day."

This is what we need to be hearing at church planting seminars and church growth conferences today! Rather than sacrificing the "Christianness" of Christianity on the altar of the Market, we should be delighting ourselves in the countercultural and foreign nature of our religion (yes, it's a religion), all the while seeking to enfold as many unbelievers into this story as we can.

And please note the irony: It's a Bishop in a mainline liberal denomination who needs to explain this stuff to us....