Preaching as a Biblical Character
- James DiLuzio, CSP
- James DiLuzio, CSP
FLESH MADE WORD
Preaching as a Biblical Character: An Introduction
Thomas A. Kane, CSP
Preaching as a biblical character or preaching in character can be a liberating experience for the preacher; liberating because the homily is in the voice of the “other”. The mode of discourse is direct, experiential and colloquial. The style of preaching is quite close to traditional preaching in that the preaching has a strong scriptural base.
Sundays or a feast day seem like the appropriate time.
In this method, there are two basic options: preach as the character throughout and always stay in character or begin in character and then break character and comment on the experience. When one preaches in character, be watchful that it is not about you being the character, but there is a sense of transparency to the performance in which your very persona melts into the character. You actually become the character. Sometimes a very simple costume effect can help the congregation visualize the change of persona.
The benefits of preaching in character are: people are interested in stories, the mode is easy to memorize and appears more sincere, real and direct. This style of preaching requires careful exegesis and uses composition of place as a starting point, very much akin to Ignatian contemplation. “imagine yourself as…”
Suggestions for developing a technique:
- Read the scripture text many times from a variety of translations.
- What person in the scripture text speaks to you?
- What does s/he look like? Any distinguishing characteristics?
- Why is this character attractive? repulsive? intriguing?
- Imagine the person sitting across from you?
- Describe the clothes, the outward appearance.
- How does the person sound when speaking?
- What is this person about in life? What drives him/her?
- What is the person’s relationship with Jesus?
- Begin writing down thoughts, feelings, and dialogue that comes to you.
- Sound the text as you write. Speak out loud!
- Re-read the Scripture Text. Any new material?
- Study commentaries, dictionaries, other writings?
- What new insights are you gaining? Continue re-writing the narrative.
- Edit. Finalize. Block in space. Practice. Perform. Evaluate.
I am Luke
James DiLuzio, CSP
As preachers of Luke’s Gospel, we infuse our commentaries and life examples with Luke’s primary themes. The foundational element is The Great Reversal, in which the lowly are lifted up and the arrogant are brought low. Both stand equally dependent upon God. This is the grounding for Luke-inspired preaching.
The Great Reversal is rooted in Luke’s emphasis on Incarnation: the pattern of Christ coming “down to earth” to identify fully with the human condition. God literally with us! Only real-life examples of great inspiration, humility and forgiveness will make this reality present. From the lowliness of the manger (human vulnerability venerated) to the reconciling Sermon on the Plain, where all disciples, be they rich or poor, sick or in health, gentile or jew, stand shoulder to shoulder, equal in dignity before the Lord.
In preparing the homily, the preacher choses stories, anecdotes and images that makes this lowly equality the way of grace, the path of peace. This path is what we have in common with every other human being. We share a basic dependence on God for the air we breathe and the water we drink. Our homilies are to move preacher and listener alike beyond the constant temptation to judge and condemn to humble acceptance of the good and evil in all of us. This approach to preaching permeates our constant reliance on God’s mercy.
I am Luke
A Conversation with James DiLuzio, CSP
Questions for Reflection
- When preaching as a biblical character, what would a 21st century interviewer want and need to know about the person? What can be known from scripture? What are reasonable hypotheticals?
- Do you find storytelling to be foundational to preaching in general?
- When the preacher begins preparing a homily by praying over the scriptures, do you bring into account the emotional responses that bubble up? What common human experiences are associated with these feelings? How do these feelings assist the preacher in the preparation process?
- How do the scriptural resources, commentaries and footnotes offer ways to develop the character? As one of the models, does the preacher use the teaching mode to enter into a character?
- In preaching as a biblical character, how do multiple scriptural passages assist the preacher to develop a full character? In what ways does the love of story make the character come fully alive?
- How important is the editing process to creating the homily? How much time should the preacher spend in reviewing and editing the material?
- What role does humor play in preparing a homily?
- How important are the visual aspects of preaching? Would you consider a “costume change” to create the character? Are words enough?