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Abstract

The article begins by addressing two primary areas of concern: 1. Can music communicate meaning, and if so, how? 2. Can theological realities be expressed through music and other artistic forms whose primary medium is not language? The author then lays out a schema featuring four different aspects of developing a musical homiletic, starting with the simplest and moving to the most complex. (1) Preachers can speak in a way that captures the musicality of human conversation: its sonically engaging use of inflection, volume, pace, and timbre. (2) Preachers can interpret the theological and poetic meaning of the texts that are set to music and offered as worship through the singing of congregation or choir or soloist. (3) Preachers can analyze how the musical devices of the composer dramatize or paint sonic pictures of the lyrics. Music and preaching are interwoven so that they mutually reinforce the Word that is proclaimed and the structure and meaning of the liturgical celebration. (4) Preachers can frame a piece of music with introductory remarks that allow the music to carry the sermon to a conclusion beyond words. Each strategy is examined in more detail, including citations from contemporary homiletical literature and sermons that employ one or more of the strategies. The article ends with a theological reflection on “the soundscape” (Stephen Webb) that is created by the church at worship.

Author Biography

Thomas H. Troeger has written 20 books in the fields of preaching, poetry, hymnody, and worship; is a frequent contributor to journals dedicated to these topics; and is a monthly columnist for Lectionary Homiletics and the American Organist. His most recent books include Wonder Reborn: Preaching on Hymns, Music and Poetry; God, You Made All Things for Singing: Hymn Texts, Anthems, and Poems for a New Millennium; So that All Might Know: Preaching that Engages the Whole Congregation (with Edward Everding); Preaching While the Church Is Under Reconstruction; and Above the Moon Earth Rises: Hymn Texts, Anthems and Poems for a New Creation. He is also a flutist and a poet whose work appears in the hymnals of most denominations and is frequently set as choral anthems. For three years Professor Troeger hosted the Season of Worship broadcast for Cokesbury, and he has led conferences and lectureships in worship and preaching throughout North America, as well as in Denmark, Holland, Australia, Japan, and Africa. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1970 and in the Episcopal Church in 1999, he is dually aligned with both traditions. He has served as national chaplain to the American Guild of Organists and is a former president of the Academy of Homiletics (the North American guild of scholars in homiletics) and the immediate past president of Societas Homiletica (the international guild of scholars in homiletics). He was awarded an honorary D.D. degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. Professor Troeger is a fellow of Silliman College at Yale University.

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