Book: We Speak A Practical Plan For More Of The Effective Preaching Lord
Author: Daniel E. Harris – Vincentian priest teaching at St. John’s Seminary, Los Angeles
ACTA Publications: 2001, pp.213
Excerpt from Introduction:
Professionals regularly make use of resources that keep them informed about developments in their field. Continuing education programs offer opportunities to hone skills in a particular area. Health professionals, teachers, lawyers, carpenters and other professionals and artisans read publications that keep them abreast of new developments. Conscientious professionals participate in conventions, seminars and workshops that allow them to interact with peers; they learn from others who have the same goals and vocation. This has not always been the case for Catholic preachers.
Until recently, preachers in the Catholic Church have had little opportunity for ongoing professional development. There are several reasons for this regrettable omission in our tradition. Before the Second Vatican Council, most seminaries did not offer systematic programs in homiletics. With few exceptions, students were simply expected to preach a few sermons for the faculty and students, often during the silent meals that were the norm in earlier days. Since preaching was not always taken seriously in the seminary, there was little interest in professional development once preachers were in active ministry.
We Speak the Word of the Lord is designed primarily for those who have had training in homiletics and are now engaged in active ministry. It addresses the special needs of Roman Catholic preachers, especially in their ministry of preaching in the Sunday homily. It can be a valuable resource for seminarians engaged in homiletics training and for lay ministers in the Catholic tradition called to speak at prayer meetings, retreats, dedications and such occasions. Men and women in other faith traditions may also benefit from this book.
Table of Contents:
What is a Homily?
Do We Preach Christ, or Preach about Christ?
Making a Homily Outstanding
Can every Homily Be Outstanding?
Creating a Homily
Telling the Old Story in a Fresh Way
Preaching the Scriptures
Do We Preach on God’s Word or from God’s Word?
The Preacher’s Own Faith
“You will be my witnesses . . . “ (Acts. 1:8)
Listening to the Listeners
How Do Preachers Include Other Voices?
Preaching the Prophetic Word
Offering a New Imagination
Daily Homilies, Funerals, Weddings
Preaching on Weekdays and Special Occasions
Using This Book with Groups
Discussion Session Guidelines
Excerpt from contents:
2. The Scriptures As the Source of Preaching
An earlier discussion of worship as first-order language pointed out that homilies are from the scriptures, not on the scriptures. This is one of the major ways that a homily as proclamation differs from an explanation. Exegesis is essential for preaching, but exegesis is not preaching itself. The following examples illustrate the difference between explaining and proclaiming. Ezekiel describes the Lord leading the prophet out into a vast field of dried bones that evoke a sense of Israel’s spiritual despair.
Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them. O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord. I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. Ezekiel 37:12-14
This passage is sometimes misunderstood as a description of the resurrection from the dead. It is especially tempting to draw an eschatological theme from verse 12 in which God says through the prophet, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them ....” This book which describes incidents in the sixth century B.C.E., predates any notion of bodily resurrection and eternal life. This periscope speaks of new life for the living, not for the dead.
The prophet Ezekiel is aware of the utter discouragement of the Israelites during the Babylonian exile. He stands in a vast field strewn with bones. It was likely the site of a great battle. The image of dry, lifeless bones is an apt description of the hopelessness the Israelites feel in their separation from their native land. Bones suggest the image of stamina. We are familiar with the expression, “show some backbone.” The people certainly lacked backbone at the moment. They no doubt wondered whether their God was even aware of their plight. The prophet offers new hope.
Do you enjoy ghost stories? In the movie Poltergeist., an expert in paranormal research offered a fascinating description of ghosts. According to her, ghosts are persons who lived dull, boring existences all their lives. They mindlessly followed the same routines over and over. When they died they did not even realize they should have moved on to the next life. They just continue to follow their old routines, oblivious of their death.
I have never seen a ghost, but I have seen some people who would make excellent ghosts someday. It is sad to see a hopeless, lifeless person. The Israelites in exile were just such a people. They had been forced from their beloved homeland and brought to a strange place of slavery. I imagine they did not stand very straight when they walked. I see them as ambling along very slowly, perhaps stooped over, lacking backbone.
Onto this scene steps God’s prophet, Ezekiel. He stands on a battlefield strewn with dry, lifeless bones and sees the plight of his own people. The prophet will not allow the people to be living ghosts. Through his mouth the Lord proclaims new life, new spirit for this people. He dry bones will grow flesh and dance around. The people will once again live. God’s breath is life!