A Preacher’s Paradox

Note: It is chiefest paradox that the holy God speaks, “Thus, saith the Lord,” through mortal, imperfect agents.

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How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10.14-15)

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Wringing his heart in prayer-wept hands

(the blood of this his weekly, willing martyr’s-moment rising to the surface),

he strives to give earthly-shape to the Word, through the Spirit’s voice, heard;

longingly searching, lovingly scripting (à la The Barthian Maxim) mere words

that, though naked, empty vessels worldly, praying they be filled with grace heavenly.

And, in this, hoping that –

though colored by his experience; inescapably painted, tainted by his ego –

through the continuing, clarifying, correcting, converting labor of the same Spirit,

will illumine Truth that will set folk, yea, himself, free, God’s holy ones to be.

© 2021 PRA

Endnote: The Bartian Maxim. A reference to Karl Barth (1886-1968), a Swiss Reformed theologian, who, concerning preaching, opined: “We must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” Thus, the sermon always is to be the fruit of the dialogue between ancient sacred text and present history.

#theartandtheactofpreaching

2 thoughts on “A Preacher’s Paradox

  1. Paul,

    This poem is such a beautiful, if agonizing, description of the soul-deep cry of a pastor called and ordained to bring Good News to the people. My mind, upon reading it, flew instantly back to your recent sermon on Jesus’ being confronted on the question of divorce, and I understood, for the first time, with my heart rather than just with my intellect what honest and courageous devotion is required for the crafting and delivery of such a message. The pulpit is never a shield, is it? The pulpit is a lens through which a divinely-called, yet fully human, person seeks to shine the spirit and love of Jesus the Christ on everything contained in a completely earthly moment in time.

    Thank you for this, Paul. It has blessed me and my understanding today. And I hold you and your work in my heart even more warmly than before as a result.

    Much love,

    Karen

    Like

    1. My dearest Karen, your kindness both honors and humbles me. Thank you.

      And your words ring most true for me: “The pulpit is never a shield, is it? The pulpit is a lens through which a divinely-called, yet fully human, person seeks to shine the spirit and love of Jesus the Christ on everything contained in a completely earthly moment in time.”

      Regarding the pulpit as shield (aye, not a shield!), I immediately recall my, at times, excruciating sense of my soul’s nakedness at the end of a sermon. For having poured all that I am and have at that sacred moment, I feel…I am terribly exposed. And then, I remember (I trust by the grace of the intervening, ever-present Holy Spirit) that it — what I oft term as “the preaching office” — is not…is never about me, but rather always, only about the people I seek to serve and the God who grants me that exquisite privilege. Remembering that, I, in a word, get over myself!

      Love,
      Paul

      Like

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