“GIVING BLOOD” BY LEONARD SWEET
Study Helps Chapter 1 by Randy Hartman
SOAPBOX #1: “Preach the Word!” That was the charge given to me when I was ordained as an elder. Of course that admonition comes from 2 Timothy 4:1-2. There is a latent, lingering fear deep inside that suspects some pastors have forgotten this is their number one task. I was not ordained to spend all of my time counseling, shuffling papers, reading emails, referring church fights, mowing the church grass. Of course in my years in ministry I have done all of those things. Burt we must never forget to keep the main thing the main thing: by all means “preach the Word.” And, pardon me for saying so, but that does not mean “preach someone else’s sermons” or “hit the download button from sermoncentral.com.” Good grief. Wrestle with the text like Jacob of old until you go the pulpit limping but blessed by God. (Yes, I do feel better. Thanks for asking.)
1. Basic Idea: Sweet makes the observation that there are two groups of people: the Guttenbergers and the Googlers. The Guttenbergers were raised in a logical word which was navigated by reading text from pages. The Googlers are being raised in an image driven world by surfing web pages. This means that the Googlers are image driven and not turned on by informative sermons delivered to persuade. Instead, they are image driven. They are much more receptive to sermons based on metaphors; or to use Sweet’s term: narraphors. A narraphor is an extended metaphor. The entire book teaches how to preach using narrphors so that the Googlers can begin to be drawn into the Gospel story through preaching.
-On Page 16 Sweet writes:
“My preacher mom, Mabel Boggs Sweet (licensed to preach in the Pilgrim Holiness Church), defined a bad sermon as one with no blood on the pulpit. “There’s no blood on the pulpit this morning,” she would mutter to herself, sometimes in the midst of the sermon being delivered.
-What do you think of the analogy of preaching to giving blood?
-When you have finished preaching what have you given? What remains on the pulpit?
3. Chapter One: “Under the Microscope: Preaching in a Google World”
-Sweet introduces an important term on page 22. “Semiotics is best defined as the ability to read and convey ‘signs,’ where a ‘sign’ (be it an image, gesture, sound, object, or word) is something that stands for something else. Semiotics is about pointers, not points. You can’t point to Jesus if you’re trying to make Jesus fit your point.”
-If the book is gong to make sense you need to read this sentence until you get it!
-“A semiotic sermon reads the signs of what God is up to in the world, connects those signs in people’s lives with the Jesus story, and then communicates the gospel by connecting people in relationship to Jesus through stories, images, and gestures. A semiotic sermon is a search for that holy grail receptacle that conveys Christ’s incarnational presence from giver to receiver.” (page 22)
-“Biblical semiotics, by contrast, is a form of spelunking the Scriptures while surfing the Spirit for resonant images and stories by which to live and for which to die in Christ. Semiotic preaching is as much liturgical as it is exegetical. Are words the best conveyers of the divine? Or are experiences, intuitions, emotions, images, and stories more reliable and memorable?”
-If you are a Guttenberger you will answer that last question like this: “words!” Later in the book Sweet maintains that preachers can no longer be consumed with being “wordsmiths.” Rather, we mine the Scriptures for transformational metaphors.
-Sweet has long taught that preaching should be EPIC. I first read his EPIC concept about 15 years ago. Here is a brief explanation as found on page 23:
EPIC style — an experiential medium (E) that allows for participatory engagement (P) with biblical images and stories (I) that connect the congregation with what Christ is already doing in their midst (C). In the course of our lab time, I will also introduce you to what I call the transductive or transincarnational method of preaching truth, a missional mode of preaching that acts as a “means of grace,” connecting people relationally to Christ…
-Regarding his title of the book: “I can think of no better definition of preaching than ‘giving blood.’ Of the three traditional ways of making a living — mud, blood, and grease — preaching involves all three: the mud pies of creativity, the blood bank of living in the Word, and the grease pit of hard work and dirty hands. But of the three, giving blood is the defining metaphor.” (page 25).
-I LOVE this sentence and believe it is a challenge to preachers everywhere: “If when you’re finished preaching you’re not finished, spent, wiped out — if you haven’t “given blood” — you haven’t really preached.” (page 25).
-Using this definition ask yourself the obvious question: “How often do I give blood?”
-“Preaching is both discipline and craft. Semiotic preaching seeks to revive the art and craft of the potter. Creativity and practice must play together in the mud, sometimes for many hours, before an image or metaphor (or the combined form of image and story that I will define later in the book as a “narraphor”) emerges from the clay to reveal the incarnational Word of Christ. (page 26).
-“Semiotic preachers in our current culture need EPIC blood to surge in their veins, not printer’s ink. While traditional preaching still echoes a ‘smash the icons’ Gutenberg mentality that privileges words, points, and principles over images and stories, images are the bread and butter of semiotic preaching. (page 27).
-“Jesus was best known as a master of metaphor, a legendary storyteller, and a powerful healer who communicated in signs, images, and gestures. Therefore, to understand Jesus and the Scriptures, we need to train ourselves and others not to exegete more words but to exegete images. The semiotic sermon is the art of exegeting not the words and principles, but the images, metaphors , and stories (narraphors) of Scripture.” (page 28).
-I suspect this little paragraph sends shivers up and the down the spine of Guttenbergers everywhere! Part of the reason for the shivers, at least in my own perspective, is that we were not trained to do this. I have spent years and lots of money to learn how to exegete words. So now suddenly what matters is to exegete narraphors? Such is the reality of emigrating from a Guttenberg world into a Googler world!
-For reflection/discussion: How do you exegete a metaphor or narraphor?
-Do you yet see the value of trying to do this?