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The Homiletic Terms bliography defines Celebration as A peak moment of emotional, cognitive, and spiritual release occurring during sermons. This “peak moment” is often the final portion of the sermon.
This is related to call and response in that it is usually the celebration of the congregation. It is also related to the conclusion of a sermon in that it is usually found at the end of the sermon. Some like Henry Mitchell see it as the uniqueness of the African American preaching tradition.
Debates or Analytical Perspectives
Cleophas LaRue in his work The Heart of Black Preaching states that some believe that the “distinctive feature” of Black Preaching is an “appeal to the emotions.”(11) LaRue instead comes to the conclusion that it is a theological approach to the scriptures that gives Black Preaching its distinctiveness.
Homiletics theorists who emphasize Celebration seek to base it in theology. For example Frank Thomas, Henry MitchellÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s student, in his book They Like To Never Quit Praising God: The Role of Celebration in Preaching states that celebration should be connected to the sermon’s gospel claim and should be a natural response to the truth of the sermon. Henry Mitchell in his book Celebration and Experience in Preaching argues that it should be a summary of the sermon.(66) Olin Moyd in the book The Sacred Art: Preaching and Theology in the African American Tradition goes so far as to say that there must be a theological basis to all of the celebration.(104)
Many of the authors place Celebration at the end of the sermon. For example, Frank Thomas both forth a method that is reminiscent of Lowery’s Homiletical Plot where he has introduction of suspense, resolution of suspense, and then celebration for the resolution.(53-54) Here the Celebration is praise for the truth of how the Gospel overcomes the problems introduced in the Sermon. However, Olin Moyd argues that while the sermon intensity increases as the sermon begins to close, the whole sermon should be celebrative.(108) I think this is a more accurate way of looking at sermons in the celebrative tradition. These sermons actually often have peeks and valleys while ultimately the greatest peak is at the end.
While Moyd reminds us that the whole sermon can be celebrative. Carlyle Fielding Stewart argues in his book African American Church Growth: 12 Principles for Prophetic Ministry that this Celebration should include all areas of human life. Celebration of life means exploring the full spectrum of what it means to be human including sorrow, tears, joy, and laughter.(57) This seems to be different than Mitchell’s idea that seems to be totally positive. Stewart’s idea opens the door for spirituals like “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless child” being seen as celebrative for they articulate the human condition.
Finally, there is the whole idea of the purpose of the celebration. There is certainly an emotional catharsis that might be helpful in and of itself, but Mitchell and Thomas argue that people do what they celebrate and thus they have a behavioral purpose to their celebration. Thomas creates a sermon worksheet where he must have a behavioral purpose to every sermon. Here the issue becomes whether we should even worry about the celebration except in analysis or whether we should plan and attempt to elicit celebration?
Key’s for Preachers
- The Celebration should be related to the sermon. If it is not related to the sermon then your celebration will obliterate the sermon from the minds of the hearers.
- Celebration makes use of emotion, but the homiletics theorists all argue that it should be based in a strong theological framework.
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