Monday, January 3, 2011

Glimpses of Glory: Using the Cinema in Preaching

Imagine that it’s 11:40 A.M. Sunday morning, and you’re working hard in the sermon to help your audience understand the difficult and often painful work involved in being forgiven. “Forgiveness is hard,” you say, “because hovering over the broken relationship like a vulture are those deeds done you cannot undo, and those opportunities lost that can never be recaptured.” You made the point clearly and concisely, but in the minds and hearts of the audience, it is still just a “point,” not an experience. Then again, you could tell them a story…

Do you remember Mac Sledge, Robert Duvall’s character in Tender Mercies? It’s one of the most powerful stories of sin and judgment and grace and forgiveness I’ve ever seen. Mac had been a successful Country & Western singer and song writer out in west Texas until the bottle “laid him low.” Wrecked his life, ruined his career, ravaged his marriage.

In a moving scene, his eighteen year old daughter, whom he’d not seen since she was a little girl, came to see him one day. As she stood there in front of him, she seemed a parable of his sad, wasted life, the daughter he’d never really known. They awkwardly try to carry on a conversation, these two strangers, but the words won’t come. And as she turns to leave, she looks at her old, weathered, wasted Daddy whom she never knew, and summoning up a sacred memory she takes one more stab at it: “Daddy, do you remember that song you used to sing to me at night before I went to bed?”

“No, can’t say that I do.”

“You know, it went something like, ‘On the wings of a snow, white dove; He sent His...something, something love. . . .’ How’d that go?”

“I don’t remember.”

She leaves. But as she’s driving off, there’s old Mac, standing at the window watching his baby leave for the last time, and from somewhere he thought he’d buried forever he starts to sing: “On the wings of a snow, white dove; He sent his pure, sweet love; A sign from above, on the wings of a dove.”

Now, both make the point, but which would you rather hear? Moreover, notice: part of the power of the scene is the fact that both those who’ve seen the movie and those who haven’t experience the poignancy, encounter the pain, embrace the pathos: the latter for the first time, the former all over again for the very first time.

The purpose of this article, therefore, is to discuss and to demonstrate how the cinema can be used as a resource in preaching. I begin with a brief description of my homiletic, firmly positioning my preaching style within the so-called “new homiletic.” I will then proceed to a brief exegetical analysis of the biblical text of the sermon, followed by a brief description of the movie which serves as the “point of entry” for the sermon. Finally, I will present the sermon itself so as to demonstrate one preacher’s “take” on the utility of the cinema in sermonizing.

(To download and read the entire article, click here)

1 comment:

stephanie said...

And this you do so well. I so miss your sermons. Everyone has their gift and I am glad to have been given the opportunity to hear you speak in person. Hope your Christmas was bright! Best wishes to you and Cheryl for the coming year.
Much love,
Stephanie