Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

The Sermon as Art

What is art? Art is given several definitions in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, including “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.” According to Dictionary.com art is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” I would define art as both beauty and truth. It is my belief that the sermon is an art form and should incorporate elements of these definitions. The preacher is an artist who relies, not only on the word of God, but also on his creative ability to form a work of art that moves and motivates the people of God.

Every sermon should speak both beauty and truth to the congregation, but too often sermons will contain only one of these, or worse, neither. If a sermon contains only beauty it may be pleasant to listen to, but there is no substance. If a sermon is all truth it may contain the facts a congregation needs to hear, but it does very little to motivate or encourage. What good are the facts if no one hears them? In every sermon the truth of Scripture needs to meet the beauty of God in order to speak a word of God to the congregation.

The preacher is an artist. The power is in God’s word, but the power is also in God to use the minister to communicate that word. If the power was in the word alone there would be no need for preachers or sermons. The preacher knows the congregation, has a feel for what is going on in the world, is continuously studying Scripture, and has a strong relationship with God. He relies on these four elements and others to create a work of beauty and truth that speaks to the congregation where they are at. All artists have something to say and the preacher is no different. Jeremiah had a fire in his bones. He felt God’s call so strongly that he could do nothing else.

Artists are always influenced by others. Filmmakers, musicians, and authors are influenced by the people who came before them. Martin Scorsese talks with passion about Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film The Red Shoes. The blues riffs of Robert Johnson and Son House can still be heard in modern rock music. Rappers sample other artists to create a work of art that is their own. Preachers are also influenced by others. Their main influence should always be Scripture, but they are also influenced by other preachers and other artists. Although a preacher may be influenced by others, the work of art they produce should always be their own. A person may recognize the influences of Craddock, Willimon, or MLK, but they should always be able to identify the sermon as a work of art created by the preacher who is preaching it.

People desire beauty and truth in the form of art. They seek it in many different places, often because they are not getting it in worship services. In many places worship has become a routine, instead of a place where we encounter the presence of God. Wherever we find God we will find beauty and truth, and we won’t have to scour the earth looking for imitations that will only satisfy us for a brief moment.

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