Beware of preacher traps

After drawing attention to Jeeves’ unanswerable questions in my previous post, I now find myself drawn towards them as I square up to the preaching task for Sunday. The trouble is, I also find myself haunted by childhood recollections of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet’s attempts to catch a heffalump. Having decided on digging a deep pit, Piglet reckoned that the thing to do would be to “put a jar of honey in the trap” so that the heffalump would go in after it.

As preachers we are drawn in by the thought of instant “applicability”, and should be cautious of Jeeves’ questions lest we fall into a trap. One or two cautions spring to mind:

  • Fear the fad: if we preach on today’s hottest topic – it could be tomorrow’s luke warm topic. Better to look for the underlying issue – be it greed, uncertainty, hope or anxiety. Otherwise it can be like getting rid of weeds by pulling off the top – new growth soon spurts out of the roots.
  • Avoid the easy targets: it’s so easy to take pot shots at a world which drools for fame or where people actually do wonder whether blondes have more fun. The trouble is, we just sound angry, and angry preachers make lousy messengers of love.
  • Don’t peddle snake oil: a preacher who steps up to the pulpit like a travelling showman stepping up to his barrow and offering a universal panacea for pain or a surefire guarantee for happiness is likely to get a similar response – scepticism.
  • Don’t answer the unanswerable: preachers who fear uncertainty teach others to do the same. If we can’t explain away suffering or tell people how long they will live, we shouldn’t attempt it.

Of course, if these are the things we shouldn’t do…what about the things we should?  If I could only get my head out of this jar perhaps I could tell you..