Preaching and the Creation of Images

According to Buttrick in his magisterial work Homiletic, Moves and Structures, to fail to create images in preaching, or any form of speaking, is to risk making no real impact at all. ’Ideas without depiction are apt to be abstract and oddly enough, unconvincing’, he says. On the other hand it is the idea concretely expressed which effectively, ’settles in consciousness.’ For C. H. Dodd the concrete and memorable quality of the parable is the beginning of an important inner process in the hearer. His definition of a parable illustrates this. It is, ’A metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.’ Craddock quotes Bonhoeffer in support of this view that what is effective in preaching, as illustrated by Jesus of Nazareth’s contributions, is the concrete: ’The church must be able to say the Word of God, the Word of authority, here and now, in the most concrete way possible, from knowledge of the situation.’ But Craddock goes even further and insists that images are not just an optional extra but theologically essential to Christian preaching: ’Images are not, in fact, to be regarded as illustrative but rather as essential to the form and inseparable from the content of the entire sermon’. In this view preaching involves the creation of concrete images, not just because the Word spoke in parables, but because the Word was made flesh. Chris Chatteris, S.J.

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