Preaching and the Theological Imagination

by Zachary Guiliano (Volume editor) Cameron Partridge (Volume editor)
©2015 Monographs XIV, 344 Pages


In an era in which The Episcopal Church and the Church of England have become increasingly alarmed about numerical decline, Christian proclamation has become more important than ever. To fully meet this challenge, Anglicans must reclaim a vocation to preach the good news with both deep theological grounding and imaginative dynamism. Crucial to this process is a sustained engagement with deepening the theological imagination of the whole Christian community, through renewed practices of, and approaches to, preaching, study, and spiritual development.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Introduction: Preaching and the Theological Imagination
  • Preaching As Theological
  • Imagination in Formation
  • The Conference
  • The Essays
  • Preaching Presence: Sacrament, Narrative, Embodiment
  • 1. Real Presence: Sacramental Embodiment in Preaching
  • The First Action: The Offering
  • The Second Action: The Blessing
  • The Third Action: The Breaking
  • The Fourth Action: The Giving
  • 2. Giving an Account of God: Possibilities for a Sacramental Presence in Preaching
  • Liturgy and Lost Exegesis: Recovering Preaching Resources
  • 3. Preaching on the Hinges of the Holy: Toward a Homiletic Theology of the Christian Liturgical Year
  • “This Ancient Sequence”: Hinges in the Christian Liturgical Year
  • Hinges of the Holy: A Theology of Borders
  • Preaching on the Holy Hinges
  • Conclusion: Transfiguring the Ministry of Reconciliation
  • 4. Patristic Allegorical Preaching as a Mimetic Technology: An Exploration and Proposal
  • Foucault and Girard: Modern Subjectivation and Mimetic Rivalry
  • Allegorical Exegesis: An Introduction
  • Allegorical Exegesis and Preaching: a Mimetic Technology
  • Recommendations
  • Conclusion
  • On Classical Anglican Preaching
  • 5. George Herbert on the “Dangerous” Art of Preaching
  • “The Windows” and the annealing of story to life
  • “The greatest and hardest preparation is within.”
  • “The Country Parson preacheth constantly…”
  • “He procures attention by all possible art . . .”
  • Catechizing and “growing with the growth of the parish”
  • Conclusion
  • 6. Preaching to the Choir: Understanding Worship in an Aural Culture
  • 7. “Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word?”: Preaching and the Metaphysical Lyric
  • Critique, Complexity, Companionship: Preaching to Various Constituencies
  • 8. Preaching in the Academy: From Cultured Despisers to Encultured Disclaimers.
  • 9. Metaphorically Catechetical: The New Reality of Liturgical Preaching to Multiple Constituences
  • Shifts in Sacramental Theology
  • Sacramental Preaching as Mediation in Word, Symbol, and Metaphor
  • The Context of Liturgy for Liturgical Preaching
  • Incultural and Countercultural Practices: Preaching in the Church
  • Preaching in Our Deep Pattern
  • 10. Practicing the Theology of Companionship: Preaching an Interreligious Gospel
  • Interreligious Relations Statement 2009
  • Interreligious Hermeneutics and Comparative Theology
  • Conclusion
  • Difficult Topics, Preaching Angles
  • 11. Preaching and Eschatology: Some New Testament Considerations. .
  • Eschatology and Comforting Those who Mourn
  • Eschatology and Ethics
  • 2 Peter 3:1–13: Eschatology and the Problem of Evil
  • Conclusion
  • 12. Preaching Peace in Violent Times: Faithful Approaches for Pacifist Pastors to Speak the Truth in Love. .
  • Breaking the Silence
  • Space for Conversation
  • Necessary Condemnation
  • Teaching Just War
  • Subversive Speech
  • Patience and Proclamation
  • Reconciling Ministry
  • 13. To Speak of Horrors: Preaching Suffering, Human and Divine
  • Passibility and Impassibility
  • Two Arguments against Passibility
  • 1. Passibility makes creation’s suffering a necessary aspect of God.
  • 2. Passibility means that the savior can’t save.
  • How Then Shall We Preach?
  • 14. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theology, Politics and Preaching amidst Suffering.
  • Context
  • July 1933 Declaration and Sermon
  • Appendix: Timeline 1933
  • Empathy, Authority, Power: Practices of Preaching
  • 15. Preaching, Authority, and the Exercise of Power. .
  • Pedagogy, Power, and Preaching
  • How do sermons “work”?
  • How is power and authority exercised in teaching/preaching?
  • Understanding how power (δύναμις) and authority (έξουσιά) are exercised in the Church
  • Summary of section 1
  • Preaching – a Fresh Look at the NT
  • The wide range of speaking/teaching/preaching words
  • Teaching words
  • Preaching words
  • Persuasion words
  • Conversational words
  • The benefit of understanding the word κηρύσσω to appreciate how authority and power is exercised in preaching
  • Analysis
  • The Preacher as “an Authority” Rather Than “in Authority”
  • About power, authority and preaching
  • About the preacher: authoritative and tentative
  • About pedagogy
  • Conclusion
  • 16. Compassionate Preacher: The Ethos of Effective Preaching in the Age of Multiculturalism. .
  • Observations about Modern Society: Why Are We Losing Compassion?
  • How Individualism Facilitates the Loss of Compassion
  • Technology and the Loss of Compassion through Distraction
  • How Modernity and Mobility Facilitate the Loss of Compassion
  • The Churches, Multiculturalism, and the Loss of Compassion
  • The Problem of Apathy
  • Theological Significance of the Incarnation
  • Compassionate Pastoral Relationships and the Ministerial Foundation
  • Suggestions to Become a Compassionate Preacher
  • Conclusion: Preaching with Compassion
  • Sermons
  • Imagining Resurrection
  • In Hope of the Glory of God
  • Contributors
  • Index

| ix →


THIS BOOK, like the conference from which it emerged, has been a communal labor from the start. First and foremost, therefore, we thank the Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship at Harvard Divinity School as well as the wider HDS community for its dedicated, creative engagement in theological formation. What a joy and an adventure it is to work with and be part of such a vibrant, thoughtful group. We also particularly thank the Reverend Luther Zeigler and the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Harvard for their strong support, along with Tim Whelsky and the HDS Office of Student Life. Incomparable thanks is due to the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, whose recent passing has deeply affected us all, about which more is said in our preface by Luther. The HDS Fellowship is truly a community that is always also caught up in wider circles— indeed, the communion of saints itself.

Furthermore, a project like this one is ultimately linked to all the communities of faith that have played a part in our ongoing formation. In addition to the HDS Fellowship, Cameron would like to lift up the Episcopal congregations that from the beginning have shaped him in various ways: St. Clement’s, Berkeley, CA; St. Mary’s, Ardmore, PA; Christ Church, Somerville, MA; St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s, Allston, MA; The Episcopal Chaplaincy at Harvard; The Episcopal Chaplaincy at Boston University. St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s formed the communal soil in which Cameron’s “hinge day” concept originally germinated. Two successive classroom communities in the HDS course “Preaching in the Christian Liturgical Year” further contributed to its development. Zack would like to give special thanks to the students at the Episcopal Chaplaincy and the HDS Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship for enduring his first, stumbling thoughts about allegorical exegesis and preaching and his initial attempts at the practice he commends in this volume. He must especially thank the small group gathered in Christ Church (Cambridge, MA) in Advent II 2011, who endured perhaps the worst sermon ever delivered. To Dave Woessner, he also extends a special note of thanks for indulging in a long, extended, joint exploration of the story of Joseph, allegorically understood, during a visit when Zack was quite ill and housebound in Spring 2012. And to Joseph Lear, for his ongoing encouragement of Zack’s work, as well as for anecdotes about his own preaching: unending gratitude. For the chance to weave together ideas from various ecclesial and academic communal contexts, we give thanks. ← ix | x →

Cameron would also like to honor those teachers and mentors who have in their own distinctive ways modeled the interweaving of scholarship and priestly ministry: Anne Minton, Ellen Aitken, Rowan Greer, Marilyn McCord Adams, Sarah Coakley. Zack cannot fail to thank Charles Stang and Beverly Kienzle for their unfailing support of his study of late patristic and early medieval theology, especially as Charles’s research assistant in 2010–2011 and in the independent coursework and writing each of them supervised in turn. He also has to thank Mark Jordan, for an initial baptism into Foucauldian thought whose effects have proved to be surprising and enduring. Foucault is now a persistent dialogue partner with the Venerable Bede and Gregory the Great. Who would have guessed?

Cameron would like to thank his family: his mom Rebecca, sister Elizabeth, and brother-in-law Justin for their love and support across the miles; his spouse Kateri and sons Gavin and Brendan for their bedrock strength, their understanding and patience, their irrepressible, inspirational energy, their life-giving love.

Zack has to thank his wife Melissa for enduring the editing of yet another volume in so short a span of time, for her always insightful comments, and for her ongoing love and support. Thanks are also due to her for producing our cover art: Melissa Guiliano. The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness. Graphite. (2014).

Regarding the images in chapter 6 “Preaching to the Choir: Understanding Worship in an Aural Culture,” thanks are due to the Virtual Paul’s Cross project (John N. Wall, Principal Investigator) and to John Wall and the Virtual Paul’s Cross project, as well as the Society of Antiquaries of London, UK/Bridgeman Images.

Finally, we would both like to extend our thanks to Chuck Robertson, in whose series we have been honored to published this volume. We especially lift up the memory of Heidi Burns, our initial commissioning editor at Peter Lang, who passed away in Spring 2014 while the volume was still in the process of being edited. And we thank our editors and contacts at Peter Lang, Stephen Mazur and Jackie Pavlovic, for a smooth transition and for their encouragement, help, and patience.

| xi →


Luther Zeigler

THIS VOLUME OF essays and sermons arises out of a conference held one weekend during Eastertide in 2012 at Harvard Divinity School, the second such conference in what is now, happily, an annual tradition at HDS called the New England Anglican Studies Conference. These conferences seek to explore various aspects of the Christian life from a distinctly Anglican perspective, with a particular commitment to bringing a fresh theological vision to the subject of each gathering—in this case, “preaching and the theological imagination.”

One of the remarkable things about the New England Anglican Studies Conference is that it is entirely conceived, organized and administered by students. Faculty and chaplains provide support and guidance, to be sure, but it is the students of the Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship at HDS who, each year, thoughtfully select the theme of the conference and then devote countless hours to making the event happen. The passion of these theological students for renewing the Church through these annual events—and, as of this writing, there have been four consecutive conferences—is a compelling counterargument to those who see only decline in the life of the Church in the West.

Importantly, and in keeping with the spirit of Anglicanism, the topic for each year’s conference grows directly out of the worshipping life of the HDS Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship, which meets weekly during the academic term for celebration of the Eucharist and conversation over lunch. These conferences are thus more than just an academic enterprise; they also express the prayerful hopes and dreams of these Harvard students for a revitalized Church. Moreover, although not apparent here in print, the daily rhythm of each conference is itself grounded in worship—morning, noonday, and evening prayer frame the sessions in which academic papers are offered and discussed— reflecting our collective appreciation for an Anglican insistence upon the interdependence of theology and worship, of thinking and praying.

Under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, the Fellowship has in recent years enjoyed a tradition of excellent preaching at its weekly Eucharist—by students, faculty, and guest preachers alike—and so it was only natural that “preaching and the theological imagination” should emerge as a topic worthy of sustained reflection and conversation at this second conference. To some, “preaching” may not seem an obvious or especially exciting subject to make the focus of a conference. The truth is that preaching is not an enterprise held in especially high regard these days by the broader culture. What the Anglican wit, Sydney Smith, said long ago about preaching still seems to reflect the popular view: “preaching has become a by-word for long and dull conversation of any kind; and whoever wishes to imply, in any piece of writing, the absence of every thing agreeable and inviting, calls it a sermon.”1

And yet, ever since New Testament times, preaching has been one of the primary means, along with the sacraments and the study of Scripture, of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. Finding imaginative and theologically sound ways of breathing new life into the ministry of preaching is the fundamental commitment shared by all the participants in this conference. The essays and sermons that follow demonstrate, I submit, that the Anglican tradition has much to offer preachers who seek a richly nuanced, theological framework within which to proclaim the gospel in the increasingly diverse contexts of postmodern life.

One of the many joys of serving as Episcopal Chaplain at Harvard is that I am surrounded by incredibly gifted students and colleagues, who regularly astonish me with their creative energy and brilliance. The emergence of the New England Anglican Studies Conference as one of the leading student-driven theological conferences in the world is an apt illustration of this phenomenon. Many Harvard students over these past four years have contributed significantly to these conferences, but we would be remiss not to single out and thank our co-editor, Zack Guiliano, for being the student leader most responsible for bringing the NEAS Conference into existence and then working tirelessly to ensure that its fruits are preserved in this volume of collected papers and in the preceding volume The Open Body: Essays in Anglican Ecclesiology, co-edited with Charles Stang, another member of the Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship and Assistant Professor of Early Christian Thought at HDS.2

Finally, with a mixture of deep gratitude and profound sadness, we dedicate this book to the memory of our beloved friend and recently retired Bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, who entered eternal life after a courageous battle with brain cancer just as this collection was going to press. From the very beginning, Bishop Tom saw the exciting potential of these conferences, and he was a constant and faithful presence at them. Without his financial commitment and wise counsel along the way, these wonderful annual gatherings would not have come into being.

In the homily preached at Bishop Tom’s funeral, his dear friend and monastic brother, Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE, reminded those gathered that one of the original meanings of the Greek word episcope is “to see,” and that Tom had an extraordinary ability to do just that: “Tom loved to see. He loved to see into. And of all his gifts, I think he was above all a seer. He had a prophetic gift of seeing deeply, of capturing a vision.” It was this faithfully creative gift of seeing that, I believe, gave Tom the confidence to encourage the students at HDS to pursue their dream of convening these conferences for the benefit of the wider Church. Bishop Tom inspired us all with his prophetic vision and gentle guidance, and for that we will be forever grateful. We offer this little book to his memory with love and in thanksgiving to the God who created and redeemed him through Jesus Christ.

1 As quoted by O.C. Edwards in A History of Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004), p. 2.

2 Zachary Guiliano and Charles M. Stang (eds.), The Open Body: Essays in Anglican Ecclesiology. Studies in Episcopal and Anglican Theology 4. C.K. Robertson. Series Ed (New York: Peter Lang, 2012).

| 1 →

Introduction: Preaching and the Theological Imagination

Zachary Guiliano and Cameron E. Partridge

IN AN era of debate and anxiety about numerical decline in the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, Christian proclamation has become more important than ever. As recent studies reveal, a major challenge attending proclamation is to reach not only those who may have left but, particularly among young adults, to reach those who have never considered darkening ecclesial doors.1 At the same time, a key concern of those who seek out our churches is that we are “clear about our tradition,” that we practice a vital and dynamic, deeply rooted theological “core.”2 When such newcomers darken our doors, they expect a there to be there. They long to encounter a community that knows who and whose it is, a community that shares its theological core, the good news itself, with unabashed authenticity.

To fully meet this challenge, we believe that Anglicans must claim a vocation to preach the good news with both deep theological grounding and imaginative dynamism. Along the way, we must overcome a history of not being known for, nor of fully claiming, our public voice as preachers. It may not be possible to identify “such a generic thing as ‘Anglican preaching’,”3 and our proclamation may have a reputation in some quarters of being “boring, unenthusiastic, pedantic and uninspired.”4 We must face the unfortunate fact, as ← 1 | 2 → Linda Clader argues, that we have indeed “baffled people” with “how indirectly we ‘teach’ our theology” in congregational contexts.5

And yet by the same token, we do not have to be other than who we are. As Urban Holmes observed, we do not typically “‘preach for a decision,’ as is often the intention in the revivalist tradition.” As we seek how the “readings in the lectionary…[might] illumine the lives of [our] hearers,” we are open to unexpected, sometimes idiosyncratic insights: “we preach for insight that requires an ability to listen and think with the left hand.”6 We can preach Christ crucified, as Kenneth Leech and Harry S.D. Robinson proclaim via St. Paul, because we are dedicated to articulating and embodying the paschal mystery, the “wisdom of the cross” in all its foolishness, week in and week out.7 As Michael Ramsey invites us, we can proclaim “the Cross and Resurrection” as “the spearhead of the gospel’s relevance and potency in the first century” as well as “for our contemporary world.”8 To intervene in the increasingly ubiquitous narrative of decline and to draw into Christ’s body those whom we do not yet know, we must embrace this core conviction with all the left-handed theological ingenuity we can muster. Lay and ordained, as Fredericka Harris Thompsett urges, we must claim our vocation as theologians.9

Crucial to this reclaiming process, we believe, is a sustained engagement with what we are calling “theological imagination.” By using the term “theological,” we lay claim to a discourse more frequently associated with Christians of other denominations: Lutheran, Reformed, Roman Catholic. As is well known, the theology for which Anglicans are typically known tends to be liturgically generated; liturgy is often claimed as “the primary place where the Church does theology.”10 Indeed, the Anglican emphasis on liturgy can also ← 2 | 3 → occasion what Harry S.D. Robinson has called a “retreat from the high office of preaching the Word.”11 We wonder how our liturgical legacy might empower afresh an Anglican vocation to theological proclamation. Further, how might our deepened engagement with proclamation help us move beyond an Anglican tendency to silo the theological within the liturgical?

Preaching As Theological

Indeed, by “theological” we mean to signal at least two points. First, that Anglican preaching—and especially preaching in The Episcopal Church— ought not shy away from claiming its exercise as self-consciously theological. We mean to suggest first that the act of preaching is a theological enterprise. It both emerges from and generates theology. In this generative process, it can do well not only to unpack and proclaim the biblical passages assigned for the given day but also to draw upon the rich theological legacy of our living tradition, from both explicitly Anglican and from pre-Reformation sources. More fundamentally, proclamation should unfold from a self-conscious theology of preaching. Such a theology is, as Owen Thomas has recently underscored, a conception of the relation of preaching to God and not only to doctrine.12 With such concerns in mind, we wonder how in preaching we might take up more surely a call to catalyze our theology? More specifically, in what ways might Anglican preaching take up the charge to reveal the good news itself, indeed to serve as an extension of that very revelation? If we assert a theology—or as the contributors to this volume espouse, several connected but distinct theologies—of preaching that views proclamation as a grace-filled participation in God’s work of revelation, as an activation of revelation’s power on earth as it is in heaven, how does “imagination” contribute to that process?

Imagination in Formation

Our concern with the category of “imagination” points to both aesthetic and ethical theological concerns. We have wondered how the stories of salvation history can spark and shape our imaginations, causing us to perceive the world ← 3 | 4 → from a peculiar slant and to act from gospel-grounded vantage points. The explorations of a wide range of theologians inform this concern.


XIV, 344
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
Anglicanism Spiritual development Religious communication
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 341 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Zachary Guiliano (Volume editor) Cameron Partridge (Volume editor)

Zachary Guiliano is a doctoral candidate in medieval history at St. John’s College (Cambridge) and a Gates Cambridge Scholar (2012–2015). His research focuses on patristic and early medieval biblical interpretation, preaching, and religious life, especially on the uses of the Homiliary of Paul the Deacon in the Carolingian era. He is co-editor with Charles Stang of The Open Body: Essays in Anglican Ecclesiology (Peter Lang, 2012) and the author of articles in Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Studia Patristica, and The Living Church. He is also editor of the Covenant weblog. Cameron E. Partridge is Lecturer and Counselor for Episcopal and Anglican Students at Harvard Divinity School and the Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University. He received his ThD from Harvard Divinity School, focusing on conceptions of embodiment, Christology, and asceticism in patristic and contemporary Christian theology. He is the author of essays in The Open Body: Essays in Anglican Ecclesiology (Peter Lang, 2012) and Theology and Sexuality (forthcoming).


Title: Preaching and the Theological Imagination
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