GIVING BLOOD BY LEONARD SWEET
Study Helps Chapter 3: “Blood Word: Making Narraphors EPIC”
1. The following quote serves as a summary of this chapter:
“Blood work is the practice of preaching. It is semiotic preaching gone EPIC (experiential, participatory, image-rich, connective).” (p. 43)
2. Remember that EPIC preaching is the way to connect with Googlers. The word EPIC represents the four characteristics that each sermon should have in order to really connect with this group of people. The more your sermon uses each of the letters in the word the more EPIC the sermon will be.
3. The first letter…E
“EXPERIENTIAL: The core issue of preaching is not ‘getting something said’; it is not even ‘getting something heard’; it is getting something experienced that can transform your life for God and the gospel.” (p. 46)
“What rational was to the Gutenberg world, experiential is to the Google world.” (p. 46)
“For people to remember sermons, they must experience Christ within them — not just intellectually but ‘bodily’ with the senses. And they must experience Christ not just individually but communally, as a “body.” (p.48)
-Do you connect with this concept? Does it make sense? There is a big difference between hearing and connecting!
-Here’s a critical quote from this chapter:
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” — Carl W. Buechner, Presbyterian pastor. (p.48)
-Further clarification regarding E:
“every sermon should give people something to see, something to hear, something to touch, something to taste, and something to smell. EPIC preaching makes you think and feel at the same time.” (p. 48)
-I wish every preacher could really grasp the meaning of this paragraph:
“Modern preaching prided itself on lucid reasoning, coherent organization, performative presentation, focused structure, formal elegance. No more. The days of the ‘pulpit prince’ with ‘golden tonsils’ and oratorical fluorescence are over. EPIC preaching is nothing more, nor less, than helping people experience God. Every study of churches that are ‘healthy’ and ‘alive’ comes to the same conclusion: they mediate transforming experiences of God. (p. 50)
4. The second letter…P
“PARTICIPATORY: Participation is the mediator of experience and the animator of narraphor. While experience can be passive, participation turns people into active agents of initiation and response. It is not enough to listen to the message; listeners become hearers and hearers become doers when they ‘take part’ in the message. Semiotic preaching moves from a listening paradigm to a participation paradigm. (p.50)
“In participatory preaching, the congregation is not a passive consumer of content but an active author of experience and creator of participation. The congregation is part of the homiletic team and is involved in the process of sermon composition and design. The P in EPIC is not just being responsive to content but is itself constitutive of it. The participation is less fill in the blank than flesh out the story.” (p. 52)
5. The third letter…I
“IMAGE RICH…Images are the thoughts of the heart. You grow a soul by the cultivation of an image garden. People today are like the Israelites in the desert. They follow the pillars of fire and the cloud, not abstract commands and disembodied voices. Image-rich preaching moves beyond literacy to imagacy. Literacy is the ability to read, write, and think critically about words. Imagacy is the ability to read, use, and think critically about images and stories. The art of imagacy is what makes narraphors memorable. In an image-rich sermon, imagacy invites people to participate in the incarnational power of the Christ narraphor.”( p. 53)
“One of the shifts we need to make from traditional preaching to semiotic preaching is to realize that the power of the Word isn’t in the words — it’s in the images, the stories, the music of the text. In traditional pulpit-centric preaching, we learned how to exegete words. Semiotic preaching exegetes images.” (p. 53)
-Is the quote above disturbing in any way? DO you agree with this approach? Does your answer reveal you to be a Googler or a Guttenberger?
“In EPIC preaching, we look for the ‘master metaphor,’ the leading or controlling image that reframes the conversation or concept . This metaphor can be a character, a key moment in the story, an artifact or artifice, even a word that functions as an image. Metaphors are not the sermon’s seasoning; they’re the very meat of the sermon itself, and they are the mediators that carry the incarnational story of Jesus.” (p. 53)
-It might be good to read this quote again until you make sure you get it!
6. The fourth letter…C
CONNECTIVE: …”connective preachers are not just in the business of building communities or even of forging personal relationships with Christ. Preachers are in the bodybuilding business of forming the body of Christ. Preachers are not lovers of community for the sake of community but lovers of people for the sake of embodying the gospel. Jesus’ prime directive was to love God and love one another. When love is at the heart of the body, the body is whole and healthy in Christ. Connectional preachers invite people to connect with each other so they can better connect with Christ’s healing power and life-giving presence.” (p. 55)
-NOTE: Sweet has surprisingly little to say about this letter.
Here’s what I think: I think any preacher who just studies and applies the first three chapters of Sweet’s book will see his or her preaching go to the next level.