Preachers live by words.
Choosing the right words can make all the difference in the world to a sermon.
Sermons sparkle when they are filled with a variety of words- simple, descriptive and dazzling words that turn ears into eyes. Anything that helps preachers enrich their vocabulary and improve their right use of words will leave their congregations forever grateful.
Susie Dent of the Channel 4 programme Countdown, writes in her book Word Perfect of her life-long love of words. She would read anything from the back label of a tomato sauce bottle to the safety card on an aircraft! Dent posts a daily Word of the Day entry on Twitter.
These posts allow her to delve deep into English dictionaries to recover some wonderful under-used words. I particularly liked the one for 23rd December 2021, the delightful ‘scurryfunging’, a word which communicates so perfectly the experience of madly dashing about in an effort to tidy up before visitors arrive.
Some words perfectly sound like what they describe: slurp, plunge, plop, ring or buzz! Preachers do well to cultivate a lively repertoire of words that communicate the message well.
This can be done by reading good books, especially by brilliant writers, whether they be theologians, historians, novelists or poets.
Maybe begin to follow Susie Dent on Twitter? She introduced an interesting word at the beginning of 2021 and repeated it at the beginning of 2022. That word is “respair”, listed as both as a noun and verb in the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning the return of hope after a period of despair. It is a rare word. OED’s only citation for it dates back to 1525.
Why is it that such a positive word is so rare? Perhaps it is because we tend to be so easily sucked into the vortex of despair that finding a way back to respair seems a bridge too far. Drifting into a negative mindset is often our default option.
As we inch towards a second anniversary of the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, we remember a time in world history in which hope has been in short supply. It does often seem like a case of two steps forward, and three steps back.
The Bible, by contrast, is never short of the language of hope.
The fall of Adam and Eve calls forth the promise that the enemy of the human race will be crushed. The biblical psalms remind us again and again that life scenarios that look like curtains for the faithful are in fact a door of hope.
Christian preachers proclaim the gospel of cross and resurrection.
The cross is an event that speaks of almost unrelieved despair, but the resurrection leads us to respair.
Make use of the rich language of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians to experience
“God’s incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:19–23)