What do elves, Tom Coates, a mallet quest, dwarves, St. Paul, and ninjas have in common?
They all have parts in today’s sermon (posted below in the “extended” section). Tom brought the typology of dwarves/elves and pirates/ninjas to my attention; St.Paul wrote the epistle on which my sermon concentrated (with constant attention to the Torah, from which the Old Testament reading today was the Ten Commandments); and an interlocutor online suggested that I incorporate the phrase “mallet quest” into my sermon. It did not make it per se, but the words “mallet” and “quest” appear in relatively close proximity to one another.
You may question the spiritual wisdom of my accepting a challenge such as this, and I see some warrant in that question — yet if we take preaching seriously as an exercise in sacred rhetoric (and few people take it more seriously than do I), the aspect of rhetorical artifice always constitutes both a dynamo of spiritual semiosis and the glittering lure of worldly showiness. I frequently resort to rhetorical gimmicks to dislodge conceptual logjams when I’m working on a sermon: making acrostics of the initial letters of the sentences in a paragraph, omitting or including certain letters (in an Oulipian mode), embroidering the words of particular songs or poems into sermons.
There are some rough, forced transitions, and some points I’d wish for more time in which to expatiate — but part of the point of my attending to rhetorical ornamentation is to distract me from my temptation to deliver academic lectures on my pet theological themes. At least to that extent, I think the device worked out all right for today’s sermon.
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