Walter Brueggemann says the preacher should be like a prophet or a poet, using speech that is "dramatic, artistic, capable of inviting persons to join in another conversation. . . unembarrassed about conctreteness. Speech that "assaults imagination and pushes out the presumed world in which most of us are trapped" and "permits people to enter into new worlds of faith and to participate in joyous, obedient life." Hans Urs von Balthasar, which is a scholarly name if I’ve ever heard one (which would make a great name for a heavy metal band, incidentally), said "God needs prophets in order to make himself known, and all prophets are necessarily artistic. What a prophet has to say can never be said in prose."
Just a few random thoughts, then…
Could this be why it is that Bono seems to be such a massively prophetic voice in our day? Perhaps it’s not such a stretch to say that musicians can get involved in politics. Maybe we need a few more artists involved in politics? What Bono says, he tends to say in poetry, in music. And even when he is simply speaking, he’s wearing sunglasses. He gets extra credit prophet points for that. Why bother? Why sing, "You become a monster, so the monster will not break you" when you could just say "You know the end doesn’t justify the means." Well, because what a prophet has to say can never be said in prose.
Or look at the Old Testament prophets: they were never content to just say stuff. They had to act it out, they had to symbolize it. Jeremiah couldn’t just tell everyone, "Hey guys, we should be weeping our eyes out because of what’s about to happen." No, he had to weep his own eyes out at the same time. Always enacting and participating in the words, always speaking concretely, with sharp edges. Always waking people up with the strangeness of their message. Why? What a prophet has to say can never be said in prose.
Another example: I know a man who has a strange gift. When he is prophesying, he rhymes much in the style of Dr. Seuss, and throws in all these fabulously quirky pop culture references. His speech literally makes me laugh out loud sometimes. Some people are quite put off by his behavior, saying "Why does he need to do it that way?" Well, don’t you know? What a prophet has to say can never be said in prose.
Preaching on Sunday mornings (and whenever else) should be like this. Preaching should wake us up to new possibilties, it should shock us out of our comfortable sensibilities. It should leave us breathless with visions so big and beautiful that our minds can’t compartmentalize and analyze them, only stand in awe. Preaching should reach deep and awaken grief and sorrow, so real healing can come. It should make us angry every once in awhile (for all the right reasons), it should make us furrow our brows and think and repent and believe. Preaching should be poetry and prophecy, raising us from the deadness of our consumeristic culture into the light and life of the present kingdom of God.
You might make a few people angry, because they aren’t hearing "5 Steps To A Better Relationship With Your Mother-In-Law", but hey, what a prophet has to say can never be said in prose.