The rime of the ancient (?) preacher

It’s a strange feeling to vacate the pulpit for a few Sundays. The burden of preaching – so hefty when it comes round relentlessly, is nonetheless a privilege which I do not lay down lightly. Like the ancient mariner’s albatross – I carry my preaching with me wherever I go. Its weight is at once reassuring and troubling, burdensome and precious. Many is the time I come home on a Sunday evening exhausted by the effort of delivery – and yet find my brain fizzing with ideas for next week’s sermon. I can’t help myself. Maybe that’s the point where calling starts and job ends – the point at which what you do seizes not just time and talents but dreams and imagination too.

This is the point, too, at which I part company with the mariner and his albatross.  At long last, in answer to a prayer from his parched lips, the burden was taken away:

The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.

To be set free from preaching is not a prayer I intend to pray any time soon.  It’s not an albatross, after all. It’s a yoke fashioned for these particular shoulders by the master carpenter who has trusted me to bear it.  That said, neither he, his church, nor I will suffer if I lay it down for a couple of weeks.

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