Thursday, March 09, 2006

Come Sunday

From chapter 5 of Come Sunday – the liturgy of Zion (a companion to "Songs of Zion’), by William B McClain, published by Abingdon1990

Generally, black preaching is poetic rather than rigorously logical and stymied by rationality. As Hortense Spillers has pointed out in her analysis of the style of the black sermons in reference to Martin Luther King, there is considerable use of metaphors and nominality with a greater number of nouns, adjectives and adjectival clauses rather than verbs and verb forms. These combine to create a picturesqueness and grandness of speech.

The black preacher relies on imagery to carry the subject much like the language of the Bible. This can be illustrated from a sermon preached by Dr J H Jackson in 1962. In this sermon an effort is made to paint a picture on the mind’s canvas. Jackson is addressing himself to facing the future with God:

"But I say to you my friends, fear not your tomorrow, and shirk not from
the task or the lot that is yet to come. The future belongs to God, and the last
chapter in the story of human life will not be written by the blood-stained
hands of godless men but by the God of history himself. The same hand that
raised the curtain of creation and pushed back the floating worlds upon the
broad sea of time and flashed forth the light of life that put an end to ancient
chaos and darkness; the same hand that erected the highways of the skies and
rolled the sun like a golden ball across the pavement of the dawn; the same God
whose hand has guided the destinies of nations, fixed the time and season and
superintended the whole order of time and eternity will at His appointed hour
pull down the curtain of existence, and will Himself write the last paragraph in
the last chapter of the last book of human life and cosmic destiny."

Such poetry, vivid imagery, and word pictures can be heard again and again in black preaching in almost any North American city, town or hamlet.

What Warner Trayman says about black theology can be said about black preaching (and if it is accepted what has been suggested at the start, to some extent, we are talking about the same thing when we speak of black preaching and black theology). The question is not "Is there a God?" (a philosophical and rational question), but is "Who is God? What does God’s existence mean for me? What does the Lord say about my condition? " The black preacher is clear that liberation and salvation are not accomplished by philosophical debate and rational argument. The black preacher makes an effort to communicate with both the mind and the emotions.
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