My favorite homiletics teacher is fond telling neophyte preachers, “We deal in words, friend.” The more I preach, the more I think about how I am going to say what I have so diligently unearthed in my study. In the following quote, Charles Bartow gets at the power of language.
“The religious language of the preacher is similar to the language of the poet, novelist, or dramatist. It is alive with the rhythms, accents, and images of ordinary speech. However, those elements of ordinary speech combine bits of experience for us in ways that we might not expect, thereby provoking insight. Suddenly, because of what the poet says, the novelist says, the dramatist or preacher says, your world and mine, the world of everyday occurrences that we have named a thousand times, taken for granted, not given much thought to, lights up with significance. We see our world more clearly than we may have ever seen it before, and we say, ‘That’s right, that’s it! That is my world as it is or could be or ought to be!’” (Charles L. Bartow, The Preaching Moment: a Guide to Sermon Delivery, Abingdon Preacher’s Library, ed. William D. Thompson [Nashville: Abingdon, 1980], 17).