Right off I wish to start with a brief note to the reader. I have relied heavily on a book I am reading to prepare this Blog. “From The Pew, a Layman’s View of The Gospel” is just that. Every now and then I step outside the pew and acknowledge other opinions and writings, this today is an example of that. Today’s Blog used material from the book:
Preaching as Doing Theology
The Promise of Homiletical Theology
Volume 1 EDITED BY DAVID SCHNASA JACOBSEN FOREWORD BY DAVID BUTTRICK
This may be more than I can handle but it is interesting and will require stepping out of the pew for a few. Antithesis, interesting word that’s not exactly in my everyday conversation or writing. I am what I call a rotational reader. The rotational thing comes about because I go back and forth between books, odd but interesting. I usually have two books going at once and read whichever one I happen to pick up when there is time. This week I picked up Homiletical Theology, edited by David Schnasa Jacobsen, and dug in at page 68. This particular segment is written by John S McClure. Mr McClure led off with the word Paradoxism, of which according to Merriam is not dictionary word worthy. He then followed up with the word Antithesis and that folks is how this blog came into being. Please stay with me as I set this up. I will start with a direct quote from the book, from Mr. McClure’s writings.
“In my assessment, the Liturgy of the Word in the Western church tradition bears within it four paradoxisms that seem relevant to transforming human communication to make it adequate to this larger task. Paradoxism is a term used by literary and cultural critic Roland Barthes to describe an “alliance of words” or an “unusual figure” designed to “transgress” or overcome a seemingly unsolvable conundrum or “Antithesis.”
Excerpt From: David Schnasa Jacobsen. “Homiletical Theology.”
Today we will look at part of these. First thing let’s take a look at a brief definition of a couple of these words from Merriam Webster.
a :the direct opposite Her temperament is the very antithesis of mine.
b (1) :the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences (as in “action, not words” or “they promised freedom and provided slavery”)
Definition of paradox
:a tenet contrary to received opinion
:a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true
I will be quick to point out that this type of subject is not a prevalent concern and is not commonly communicated in the pew. Communication, now that is a concern in the pew and in a rather novel way today’s post speaks to that. “Between Heaven and Earth” do we have a distance for that? From a Christian point of reference how far is heaven….and does that “human-divine” communication make traveling the distance possible? The author writes that there are four paradoxisms that hinder “human-divine” communication. Now we can communicate in many different ways which each other, we will for now look at the spoken word, preaching so to speak. who’s in the conversation? Preacher, Pastor, Priest, worship leader are terms we use “to set apart in relation to divine power within a religious or ritual context.” (page 70 Homiletical Theology) The author refers to these people as “God-persons”. Some ordained some not. I interpret this to mean they make overcoming the distance between divine and human a little more plausible. Now I am out on a limb here but it does seem that at times the distance between God and humanity seems so far. Seeing one of our own in that position enables us to remove the “Antithesis” of a human-divine relation. We see a human-divine communication that represents an authentic and active relationship. We can see the possibility of breaking through that wall and having that relationship.
Next we look at Intercession another bridge to this human-divine relationship.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6”
“The second paradoxism in the Liturgy of the Word is the figure of the worshiper as “mediator between heaven and earth” in prayer, especially intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is a unique and unusual figure in the liturgy and it seeks to transgress what might be called the Antithesis of human/divine mediation. Beyond establishing relation, mediation implies activity: a way of acting within the divine/human relationship.”
Excerpt From: David Schnasa Jacobsen. “Homiletical Theology.”
Have you ever considered yourself as a Mediator……we all know that Christ is our mediator before the Father, that he intercedes for us. When we come together to pray for the needs of others we too become mediators or go-between, taking the concerns of this world to God. It is an active part of the human-divine relationship which brings the things of God to this world. (page 72 Homiletical Theology) We willingly assume the role of intercessor, a go between if you will, between heaven and earth. Again we find ourselves working through that wall of “human-divine” relationship by taking an active part within the “human-divine” relationship in which we then become an active participant. As would be said in the secular vernacular, we now have a stake or ownership in this relationship.
Next we consider scripture, what language will we speak? This puts us face to face with the Antithesis of human/divine language. Is there a code, a specific language, rituals in words, what is the language that brings the scriptures to life? How is the word made flesh? As a layman I don’t find it hard to become confused about certain things, church wise. The Liturgy followed by the liturgical practices opens up a whole new set of words and practices in the world of “human-divine” language. We find a whole new way as the author says of “speaking with God.” Again I return to a direct quote from the book…
“These first three liturgical practices within the Liturgy of the Word in the Western church tradition, interpreted from the perspective of the task of human-divine communication, surround preaching with significant assistance in its task—helping us as preachers and worshipers to be (1) in an authentic relation with God, (2) competent (empathic, intercessory) communicators, and (3) christologically repositioned in relation to language. We might say that these three practices establish the unique kind of intersubjectivity needed in order to speak now to/with/for/on behalf of God—which is the paradoxism figured by what we commonly call “the sermon.”
(Excerpt From: David Schnasa Jacobsen. “Homiletical Theology.”)
If you made it this far, thank you! I encourage you to seek out this book. It is an interesting read and opens up a whole new perspective of what, why and how we believe.
We will be back in the pew next week.
Life Is Good