In the Winter 2003 edition of the African American Pulpit there is the sermon The Worms Got Him by Dr. Caesar Clark who is one of the great African American preachers.
We will look at this sermon at another time in that there is much in it to learn about the genius of the Black pulpit. What I want to look at here is the interesting device that Clark uses in his first move of the sermon. Here Clark summarizes a lot of information and background data for the hearers.
The sermon text is Acts 12:5 and Acts 12:20-24. Clark zeros in on the following quote “He was eaten of worms and gave up the ghosts, but the word of of God grew and multiplied.” Here Clark wants to emphasize the distinction between the group that is eaten of worms (dies) and the word of God which grew and prospered.
Clark begins the sermon by taking the congregation on a walk through the Herod families graveyard. As he walks by each tombstone he gives a wealth of data derived from the Bible and other sources. The epithets on each tombstone were taken from the Bible itself. For example, Clark notes that Herod Antipas’ epithet was “that fox.”
What is very helpful about what Clark is doing is that he gives people the background necessary to understand and experience the sermon. But he gives it to them in an experience. He doesn’t just tell them the history. Very few like or understand history, but he calls people to come and walk in a story. Clark reminds us preachers that we need to find a way to connect the ancient story to the people. Clark is a part of the African American tradition which always seeks to bring people into an experience with the text.
So next time you are thinking about simply reciting the background of a text, why not attempt to create an experience with that background. You will have a stronger sermon and the people will retain your points better.