Monday, July 28, 2008

Hearing and doing the Word together

A while ago I blogged on an essay I was reading by Walter Brueggemann (it's here with a couple of helpful comments attached).

In particular Tim asks about metanarratives and individualism. I'm always a bit suspicious of questions about metanarratives (partly because I'm not 100% sure I know one when I step on one!). Brueggemann is probably suspicious of metanarratives understood as overarching stories that give the tellers of those stories power over their listeners.

And it's for that reason that I suspect Brueggemann is more communitarian in his understanding of how preaching works than my previous post might have suggested. It's always the problem of commenting on one essay in a collection. But it is fair to say that the focus of the essays is on preaching which is a solo activity in almost all its incarnations - I know that Alan and Eleanor Kreider have pioneered dialogue-style preaching (and I've even done it once with a colleague) - but overwhelmingly, preaching is an individual act.

Listening has the potential to be a collective act. In most of our churches, however, it seems to be equally individualistic. People come and hear and leave and process the content of a sermon on their own.

One of the things I'd like to explore - which is, I think, part of the process of trying to make preaching more of a dialogue - is how congregations can be helped to listen to sermons together. How can we make the hearing, weighing and applying of the Word an act that we do as a community.

As a Baptist, I think I believe that hearing, understanding and doing the Word of God is the most collective thing that we can do. It's our whole reason for gathering. All theology, says James McClendon, is biography - the story of God and the story of his people. Preaching is one of the components of that biography.

As my sabbatical draws to a close and I think about teaching programmes at church through this autumn, one of my concerns is how do we make this a reality. How do we preach, teach, listen, learn and live as a community of God's people?

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