For the last while I’ve been dipping into the Logos Bible Software eight-volume series Art for Faith’s Sake. Like other Logos resources, this is available by download only, so don’t be fooled by the photo on their website which is for illustration purposes only. Unlike a lot of the other offerings from Logos, however, this is not a Bible study tool. Instead, this series includes “primary” worship materials like drama and prayers that can be used in worship, and “secondary” materials that reflect on the arts in worship.
So I’ve been reading poetry, acting out monologues in my head, improving my preaching, learning a new way to pray, picking out tunes on the piano, rediscovering Emily Dickinson, and just generally thinking about art and worship, and how one enriches the other. If that sounds like a lot, well it is! And while the series is designed for the church at worship, I’m finding it personally and pastorally enriching.
Will Willimon drew me into his Five-Minute Preaching Workshop with this:
You and I, as preachers, are dealers in words. Words are all that we have to do any important work. Like some of the psalms of lament, I want both to thank God for speech and to blame God for speech being so difficult. And I want to fall in love with language, over and over again. That’s one reason why I read poetry, and go to plays and movies, and read all I can, because, as a preacher, it’s all just words. I want to love words and, in what I write and edit, to have fellow preachers and listeners love them with me. A preacher is, among other things, someone who has learned to love words. (Preaching Master Class: Lessons from Will Willimon’s Five-Minute Preaching Workshop, page 5)
From the basics of preaching, to addressing specific texts and contexts, the bite-sized columns in this volume are a good refresher, but do be aware that they’ve been culled from Willimon’s earlier writings. That means, for example, that the stats in his column on preaching to young adults are from the 1980s and 1990s, but overall his advice remains sound and well worth reading.
Another volume in the Art for Faith’s Sake series that I’d like to highlight is Mending a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Dickinson by Susan VanZanten. After a review of Emily Dickinson’s life, faith, and poetry, the book contains 29 brief reflections or “devotions” based on her poems. Here is a brief example excerpted from the introduction:
To mend each tattered Faith
There is a needle fair
Though no appearance indicate—
’Tis threaded in the Air—
And though it do not wear
As if it never Tore
’Tis very comfortable indeed
And spacious as before—Poem 1442 in The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson.
The poem presents a metaphorical picture of faith as a torn article of clothing that needs mending—a scriptural image to the extent that the Bible often refers to salvation using the metaphor of clothing. . . . But in the poem we find faith that has been “tattered” by some kind of experience or perhaps doubt. In the poem’s description, the mending tool—the needle—is both beautiful as well as reasonable (implied by the pun on the word fair), despite the paradox that it cannot be seen and is “threaded in the Air.” Could this invisible needle and thread be referring to the work of the Holy Spirit, the unseen presence that sustains the Christian in times of difficulty and doubt? We often think of the Holy Spirit as associated with air, with the mighty rushing wind that filled the house where the apostles were gathered on the day of Pentecost. The poem’s later mention of “comfort” also evokes language associated with the third member of the Trinity. (Mending a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Dickinson by Susan VanZanten, page xiv)
I could go on quoting my favourite parts from this series, but I’ll stop here and refer you to Art for Faith’s Sake on the Logos website. Each volume is listed with its own description and sample pages, so you can do some browsing for yourself.
Disclosure: When I started blogging, I made the deliberate decision not to include affiliate links or paid posts, but I do receive books and other resources for review. I received Art for Faith’s Sake from Logos Bible Software, and the views expressed here are my own.