Creative people do things in a unique and memorable way. Writers take the 26 letters of the alphabet and use then to create works of prose or poetry that can inform our minds, delight our imaginations, and stir us to renewed action.
A skilfully conceived and well-written book can rehang our worldview, reshape our practice, and change our life. A book can transport us into another world or open a world of fresh possibilities for our thinking. I recently read a brilliant book by Jason Ramasami, entitled Joseph and the Triumph of Grace. The first part of this book is a visual retelling of the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis.
It reminds me of a Toy Story film, which is accessible to children but is so multi-layered that adults can be totally absorbed too. I was interested to hear about the process of creating this book. The author immersed himself in the biblical story of Joseph, reflected on its place in the bigger story of the whole Bible, and then allowed his creative skills as an illustrator to funnel the story into stunning visuals.
Preachers need to remember that there is such a thing as a creative process. Engaging sermons do not get preached by accident. What seems like effortless preaching artistry involves painstaking preparation.
The actor David Suchet describes how he prepared to play the part of Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in the television series based on her stories.
Suchet read all of Christie’s Poirot stories and watched all the previous films based on them. In this process he detected the character’s 93 key traits. These were used in the next 25 years to guide his interpretation of the character in each of his performances as Poirot.
Such a commitment to detail suggests that artistic beauty is a combination of the creative spark and a consistently high work ethic. The result is what many would consider to be the definitive interpretation of the character of Poirot.
Preachers need to learn how to get into the characters that inhabit the pages of Scripture. A close identification with these characters requires an attempt to enter their world, see through their eyes, think in the way they think, feel their pulse, and walk in their shoes.
One of my favourite quotes from Tom Wright is the provocative question:
“What was it like to be Jesus?”
It ought to be obvious to us why such a question is important for the preacher.
If we are to avoid the pitfall of presenting Jesus in our sermons as a one-dimensional, almost ethereal figure, we need to dive a little deeper into the full range of who Jesus is.
This Jesus, who was born in a stable, lived as a refugee, was a child prodigy, real human, yet divine sensation, flavour of the month, yet cruelly rejected. This Jesus who walked, talked, ate, slept, shed tears, and died. This Jesus who told the best stories ever told, and whose life was the greatest story ever told.
Those who preach Jesus must never, never, never be dull!
Those who preach Jesus must find fresh ways to speak about him in creative and memorable ways.
Simon Berger on unsplash