In March of 1973, just two months after his first album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. was released, the first major article on Bruce Springsteen was published in Crawdaddy! magazine. Here is an excerpt from the article in which Springsteen is talking about his songwriting.
He had stopped picking, and he looked up and smiled. "It's exciting to me! It's very weird, you know. I'm happy and the music is exciting to me." He looked for an explanation, his eyes glazing over for a moment. "It's like I'll write a song and I'll think back on some of the lines, and they get me off!" He was so pleased a grin almost shone. "As an observor, you know.
"'Cause in my mind, my mind was thinking, 'Hmmm, need something to rhyme with night, need something to rhyme with...all night.' And it works like that; it focuses it in. 'Well, you got the universe to think about but you need something that rhymes with night!'"
Springsteen's words got me to thinking about preaching. We have God to think about but we need something that goes with...well, with whatever it needs to go with.
There is a warning for us here: let's not forget that it is God that we have to think about and to talk about--and to help other people think about and talk about. Somehow our preaching, if it is really to be preaching, needs to help to create space in which Almighty God can be experienced. That is necessarily difficult to articulate.
God is the reality with whom we are dealing and about whom we are talking.
There is another but related reality with which we are dealing, though: the real need to communicate. Springsteen said that he had "the universe to think about" but when it came down to it he needed "something that rhymes with night." We do have to come up with words to say that sound right together and that, taken together, say something that people can hang onto and take away with them.
Perhaps our real challenge is to come up with plain, simple, and memorable words that somehow carry the reality of God with them.
How can our little words reflect the God of the Universe about whom we are talking when we preach?
[The article is Peter Knobler with Greg Mitchell, "Who is Bruce Springsteen and Why Are We Saying All These Wonderful Things about Him?" Crawdaddy!, March 1973. I read it in June Skinner Sawyers, ed., Racing in the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader (New York: Penguin, 2004), 29-39.]