I’ve had several occasions recently to mention an article on preaching by Walter Brueggemann, “The Preacher, the Text, and the People.” In it, he refers to Bowen Theory’s idea of triangles to talk about preaching. He suggests that preachers often line themselves up with the text over and against the people. In fact, what we need to do is stand with the people and allow the text to speak to both of us. Brueggemann’s argument is, of course, far more nuanced than my brief summary. I commend the full article to you.
5 replies on “Are You in a Triangle in the Pulpit?“
Thanks, Betty. Great way to put it. It could even be a 3 point sermon in itself on the ways we dull, dampen and destroy the Scripture to make it easier on ourselves!
I like the concept of always standing with the congregation in “the beating.” (Well, maybe “like” is not the right word there – it usually hurts!) I felt like the question emerging from the article was how do we stay out of the way of the text? How do we not dull, dampen, or perhaps even destroy the text we are so passionate about, and which we are called to preach?
Perhaps we should only use the text to “beat people over the head” if we are willing to stand with them and take the beating, too. In a way we are saying to the people, “me, too.” “I struggle with these matters, too, and I’m trying to be faithful but it’s not easy.”
I always find Brueggemann’s writing a lot to sort out! This article is no exception. But it made me think.
I do find the preaching the text triangle an interesting triangle or construct to ponder. I have to admit that the article by Bruggemann is fairly complex for me to take in all the angles to sort out. I remember that Barbara Brown Taylor said about preaching that she preaches a text when the congregation can add the words “me too.” I certainly think that Bruggemann is on to something but I think there are so many triangles in his article that I can’t disentangle them all.
I believe that too many of us who preach can easily fall into the trap of aligning ourselves with the text against the people – especially when it comes to social justice issues. As a good Lutheran who looks for Law and Gospel in any text, I always admit that I too stand in judgement and sin just like everyone else. I also need the Gospel just like everyone else. I have even said that, in some ways, I have it easier because I am “paid” to be a Christian and don’t have to deal with many of the day-to-day work and business issues that most folks have to deal with.
In my observation, a great irony exists by those who tend to “beat people over the head” with the text concerning social justice issues who are indignant about the “fire and brimstone” preachers who use the text to “beat the hell” out of them.
One of the things that keeps me up at night: how is my style of preaching, pastoring, leading structured and reflected in line with what I say I believe?