Saturday, October 18, 2008

Creative Words, Part 2: Empathy

A second way our language can be creative is by using empathetic speech. we are created in God's image, and that image includes emotions. The Bible displays God rejoicing, dancing, feircly angry, and sad. As Darius Slater says, "God's character remains unchanging, but his emotions don't!" He also notes that one of the primary characteristics of the prophets is they displayed a divine empathy with God. Their emotions in delivery, and even in life, mirrored that of God's. Hence Jeremiah is the weeping prophet, and so on.

Empathetic words travel with feeling. They have passion, sadness, excitement, and fear. Words produced in preaching are not to be the stale words of the university lecture hall. Does not God ask, "Is not my word like fire?" Is it not like a hammer that shatters a rock?

So, how do you preach with more empathy?

1. Put yourself in the text. This can be dangerous because you do not want to go out of context with your empathy. Nevertheless, ask yourself how you might feel if you were Peter after Jesus called you Satan. How did Matthew feel when Jesus called him to be a disciple? What feelings went through John when he saw Jesus in Revelation 4?

2. Immerse yourself into the text. What I mean is you need to allow God to move you through the text. your point of the sermon needs to speak you. You need to be excited about what you are talking about. Let the message and burn into your soul until there is a fire in you. Allow that passion from studying the text show through in your presentation.

3. Become immensly familiar with the text. Study it. Know it inside and out. Get in between the lines, the words, the very sylables of the words. Let it breathe into your psyche. This takes time and determination. I mean a study beyond the exegesis. Study the arc of the passage. Know the narrative. Know the emotions and back story of each of the characters. What do they look ike? How do they dress? Was the day sunny or cloudy? What time of year did the text take place? Was it harvest time? All these details breathe life into the story the author is telling you.

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