What's at Stake in a Preacher's Spirituality of Time?
International Journal of Homiletics
A preacher's spirituality of time may seem like a peripheral issue, but this realm is one where much is at stake. In this article I argue that the preacher's approach to time scaffolds the overall endeavor. I begin by considering the church's unique position in time, arguing that the church is fundamentally an event or a happening rather than an institution. Then, I explore ways preaching can foreground the church's identity as an event. After describing preaching as the narration of a
... ation of a theological moment in the church's life, I turn to practical implications. In addition to homileticians, my primary interlocutors for this piece include two renowned spirituality scholars, Evelyn Underhill and Abraham Joshua Heschel. I conclude that ecclesiology, pneumatology, and performance are all profoundly shaped by a preacher's appreciation for the holiness of time. Back in 2001, I made a trip to Mbale, Uganda alongside a large group of American missionaries. On our first full day serving I noticed that our stay at a given church was taking longer than expected. Mindful of the additional churches, house visits, hospital visits, and worship services scheduled for the afternoon, I turned to one of my hosts and asked what time we would be leaving for the next church. He smiled and said, "Americans have all the watches but Africans have all the time." That phrase tickled me and refocused my attention to the power of the present moment. More than a decade later, the maxim continues to offer a strong critique of Western hegemony, capitalist accumulation, and acquiescence to the clock and calendar. Even more pointedly, the saying nudges me to be more attentive to the moment for without that full engagement, how is ministry possible? How is it possible to delight in the Holy Spirit, let alone proclaim the Spirit's work among us? While these questions began as personal ones, they have a broader relevance for the contemporary church as it negotiates periods of rapid transition. A preacher's theological posture towards time shapes the preaching endeavor in significant ways, driving ecclesiology, pneumatology, and performance. Time is not an ancillary dimension of preaching but an essential factor in caring for souls. Abraham Joshua Heschel describes time as "a predominant feature of