In class on Wednesday, Sue asked “who is your embedded (or intuitive) preacher? Who is your deliberative preacher?” She borrowed the words embedded and deliberative from a book we used in class on theology, How to Think Theologically by Howard Stone & James Duke. In their book, they define the terms embedded & deliberative theology as follows:
“Embedded theology is the understanding of faith disseminated… and assimilated in [our] daily lives. Deliberative theology is a[n intentional] process of reflecting on multiple understandings of faith implicit in [our] life and witness in order to identify and/or develop the most adequate understanding possible.” (p. 18)
I have heard it said that if our minds don’t know how to make sense of information inputs, it will create a scenario that makes sense to it. So it is that in this case, the saying “Perception is reality” takes on a new, sometimes scary, meaning and import. This is the stuff of Greek Mythology. It is the source of urban legends today. It generates the stories which morph in the campfire game “Whisper down the Lane” where the message at the end of the line sounds nothing like the message at the start. It feeds pernicious rumor mills. Too often, it is the stuff of rhetoric and demagogues.
The problem with embedded things, whether theology or preachers, is that they’ve often never really been thought about. Who is your embedded preacher? In my case, my embedded preacher turned out to be a caricature. I considered the question. I responded “He (for my embedded preacher is always male) wears a long black robe and he stands at the front of the church on the stage, behind the lectern and gives some sort of boring exposition about some aspect of how we are to live. The speech usually has some connection to the bible or doctrine. The congregation is passive in this operation.” Smiles broke out on the faces of my classmates. They knew this person. Maybe you know him, too.
Wow! That’s not someone I really want to get out of bed to hear on a Sunday morning.
So who’s my deliberative preacher? Friends speak of the ministry of all believers. They speak of that of God in everyone. My own definition of preaching is “opening to others the Presence, the Joy, the Peace which is our inheritance. It is the work of helping ourselves and others to awaken, in a spiritual way.” In this sense, we are all preachers. Further, I have come to understand ministry as doing the work of God, here on earth. If we are willing to accept that work, it means that our entire lives can be understood as ministry. When we acknowledge that actions speak louder than words, we let our lives speak. That speaking is also a form of preaching, albeit often non-verbally. It helps to inform us and those we touch (consciously or unconsciously) of right relationship with the eternal.
What do they have in common, Sue asked. Not very much, if anything. I also had to admit that I was allowing my embedded preacher to overpower the deliberative one. It was if someone had turned a light on, or the way the air becomes clear after a thunderstorm passes. I realized that I’m already a preacher, whether I choose to acknowledge it or not. This horse has been led to water and finally awakened to the fact that it is thirsty. Let me share some of this water of life with you.
 Duke, Howard Stone and James. How to think Theologically, 3rd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2013.