A few years ago, I bought The Collected Sermons Of Fred B. Craddock. Craddock, who died earlier this year, was a long-time professor of preaching at Emory University’s Candler School Of Theology.
So, coming from a graduate of Asbury Seminary, this post is almost like an Alabama grad singing the praises of an Auburn prof. Or a Carolina grad revering a teacher at Duke. You catch my drift.
But appreciate I must. Because I still pull the book out on occasion and spend some time marveling at the ways Craddock uses Scripture and crafts language.
Now: I like reading sermons. I enjoy seeing on paper (or on screen, for that matter) how a preacher arranges his material and builds his argument. This is one of the ways I hope people will find Head Scratchers, The Storm Before The Calm, and The Shadow Of A Doubt useful.
But I love reading Craddock’s sermons. I don’t know if I’d love them so much if I hadn’t heard several recordings of Craddock preaching. But I have and because I have I can hear his unique inflection on every word of every page. If you’ve never heard him — or even if you have — here it is:
Yet what strikes me most about these messages is the way Craddock uses nouns. Many of us preachers specialize in either concepts or verbs: we want people to think of ideas and then to do things.
Not Craddock. He wants people to see and to feel the texts on which he preaches. The result is, in almost every case, a brand new look at a very old word. Here are just a few from the book:
“God ordained a worm” in re-telling the Jonah story (p. 57).
“Well, we’re not going to skip the genealogy; we’re going to join Matthew for a walk through the family graveyard of Jesus” in speaking on Matthew 1:18-25 (p. 62).
“If I keep the pond small, I seem like a big frog” while preaching on Psalm 8 (p. 33).
“Skin color is determined by the rays of the sun the skin rejects” (p. 50).
“I’ve said ‘forget it’ to people who grew up in families where alcohol had broken every dish in the house. Grown up peeking from behind the couch” (p. 13).
I find these vivid images — and many more — planting themselves deeply in my brain. They will not let me go. Which is of course the mark of good preaching.
So in my own way, I’m looking for some more nouns. Here are some of the series we’ve got planned, many of which are, in fact, noun based:
Mad People Disease
Wake Up Call
The Light At The Beginning Of The Tunnel