Monday, August 29, 2011

The Preacher and Words

God has decided that through the foolishness of preaching the power of His gospel would be demonstrated.  From Peter on the day of Pentecost to the present day, preaching is still changing lives.  That’s why we preach with boldness and vulnerability, because preaching matters.

I might be many things, but my calling is to preach.  But preachers have limitations.  We are compared to poets, but we usually lack their precision with language, using words with clumsy brute force as often as not.  We are sometimes called prophets, but are usually not so courageous, especially since our livelihood depends, in part, on the people we prophesy to.  We are not artists either, since we lack an artist’s originality.  The preachers’ job is not to paint new things, but to repeat old things.  We re-shuffle a deck of words already given to us, only hoping to play the right card at the right time.

I am a preacher.  That’s means I didn’t decide on my own to do what I’m doing.  I love God, but I don’t preach because I necessarily love Him more than anyone else, and certainly not because I can claim any extraordinary holiness.  I am a preacher because I’m called to be.  People talk about a calling from God that is like an inner voice, a quiet whisper, or a special peace that settles on you like morning dew.  Nice.  What gets left out most of the time is that calling seizes you like an octopus and it’s almost inescapable.

I have many experiences in life – friends, hobbies, interests, and stories that go beyond my role of preaching.  I laugh, cry, and get angry just like other people.  But God knows I experience them all as a preacher would, through a preachers filter.

I am a preacher who hates the sound of my voice – except for those days of course where I am in love with the sound of my voice, and neither is particularly good.  I live under the weight of words.  I carry words in my pocket, in my satchel, words in my heart, and words at the top of my mind.  Words, it’s always the words.  They occupy most of my thinking.  I deliver words that make some people look at me with the superstitious fear of a witch doctor, or the village medicine man who has all the answers.  I deliver words that make me look like the village idiot, a man out of time, a man that won’t move on with the world.

Words have the ability to give life or bring death.  The power of life and death are in the tongue.  All this talk of hope, heaven, and damnation at my disposal, all this absurd power to be trusted to a human being – it’s frightening to live under the weight of words.  I wish I could  live up to the greatness of words, God’s Words, and to have a soul big enough to be worthy of them.  But how can I?  I am only a preacher, frail with limitations.  Yet God has chosen the foolish and weak things of the world to confound the wise.

I don’t create the words or own them.  I gaze at them, consume them, and sometimes choke on them.  Then I repeat them.  Words are all I’ve got.  Words will have to be enough.

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