This Fall I will be teaching a preaching class for Chicago Theological Seminary. I have taught homiletics before, and goodness knows I’ve had enough practice. So, it sounded like a good idea at the time. Then I realized that it was an online class, and no mainline denomination has yet to offer an accredited preaching class online. I’ve been wondering all summer just what I’ve gotten myself into. I’ll let you know how it goes …
One of the textbooks I’ve assigned to the class is The Heart of Black Preaching by Cleophus LaRue. I thought this was especially important in light of President Barack Obama’s recent sermonic eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Like those who sat in the room that day, I was deeply moved, challenged, and stirred as I listened to President Obama. In part, of course, it was the emotion of the occasion that made the President’s words so moving, but I don’t think it would have been the same if President Obama had not been shaped by the black church.
I’ve been pondering a great deal what it is going to take for the white church to learn from our African-American sisters and brothers how to bring our whole beings to church. Jesus told us that the first, and most important, commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. White Christians seem pretty good at loving God with our minds, but what about the rest of that commandment?
In his book, Dr. LaRue tries to explain the appeal of African-American preaching and worship to human passion and emotions. I understand the academic need and value of his words, but I don’t think the work of the human heart, soul, and strength can be explained adequately to the human mind. I’m not sure it needs to be.
As I listened to the President’s eulogy, I found myself wishing my own faith was more a matter of heart, soul, and strength and maybe a little less a matter of my mind. I don’t think we should be thoughtless or unthinking. I don’t think we should believe dumb, magical, or superstitious things. Okay, there is little danger of you doing that, but is there any danger of you letting go and loving God with your heart, soul, and strength a bit more?
Rev. Michael Piazza