Preaching as 'Doing Theology'

"The preaching of the good news is like one beggar telling another where to find food." This is an arresting aphoristic definition of unknown origin likely to give pause to an aspiring Bossuet. Such a definition well illustrates Mary Catherine Hilkert’s fundamental point that "Every preacher has a theology even if that theology remains implicit" (Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination, p. 48). Hilkert continues in the above vein: "Underlying convictions about where God’s word is to be heard and by whom and how it is meant to be proclaimed, will affect very practical decisions about homily preparation...Reflection on how one goes about creating and proclaiming a homily can disclose one’s beliefs about the locus of revelation and the goal of preaching." The point is an important, down to earth one--practical pastoral approaches are not without theological foundations and hence it is not a matter of "mere academic" importance to identify and clarify what these are. Or, as a colleague, following Jungman puts it, what we should be aware of is what the preacher is doing up there. This is especially so if we happen to be the preacher "up there." If we habitually give a lesson in systematic theology, this is revelatory of a certain theological stance on preaching. The same is true for moralizing, pious exhortation and social analysis; the list goes on. The action occurring in the pulpit implies an underlying theology of which it is clearly good to be aware, if only to offer some variety. Fred Craddock insists on the bonds between preaching and theology, remarking vividly that "separation of preaching from theology is a violation, (my italics) leaving not one but two orphans’ (As One Without Authority, p. 52). Chris Chatteris, S.J.

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