Last week, commentators were focused on this question: “What does Romney need to accomplish with his convention speech?” and the following days were full of evaluation: did he or did he not?
This week it is the same: “What does Obama need to achieve with his convention speech?”
Around these two candidate addresses are a host of other keynote speeches. Which is interesting in this era of social media, special effects, and screens the size of buildings. It is the still the speech that counts: one person standing in front of others and articulating an idea, describing an agenda, sharing a vision, telling a story: or all of the above.
Nothing replaces the public speech because nothing replaces the human voice. The human voice is the most powerful tool, the most valuable asset, and yes, the most lethal weapon on planet earth.
Just last week we celebrated the most famous words of space: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Patrick Henry is famous for saying, “Give me liberty or give me death” and Winston Churchill for declaring, “We shall never surrender,” and President Kennedy urging us to “Ask not what your country can do for you” or President Reagan demanding of a foreign nation, “Tear down this wall.”
These are political occasions, but the same is true of religious speech. Moses said, “Choose you this day who you will serve.” Jesus said, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” And in our day, Martin Luther King Jr. said for all of us, “I have a dream.”
It is the spoken word, sharper than a two-edged sword. When fitly spoken, the Bible says, like apples of gold on platters of silver.
When the smoke clears and the balloons burst it is the words we recall, that ring true, that are repeated and memorized and rehearsed and performed. And when the organs and guitars are silent, the robes discarded, and the communion cups put away, it is what was said that matters.
Recent large scale surveys of both Protestant and Catholic Christians reveal the same thing: it is the sermon, the preaching, the spoken word that is most likely to catch our attention, stir our imagination, and redirect our living. It is the preacher, the homilist, the minister who takes to the pulpit or the platform that is most likely to turn the otherwise predictable service of worship into a mind-shattering, faith-planting, plan-altering, prayer-lifting, soul-saving event.
That is why we preach!