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Dear God, on behalf of preachers I pray…
May you be weak kneed – so that you feel the inclination often to bend them
May you be short-sighted – so that you neither fall in love with your own reflection nor take fright at the expressions of those who listen to you
May you be flat-footed – that you might stand your ground firmly on the Word which God has given you
May you be forgetful – that you might forget those things which would crowd in and occupy your mind just at the moment when you preach
May you be hard of hearing – so that you are not readily influenced by mere noise, but that you listen hard to hear God’s quiet voice
May you be as holey as you are holy – with lots of little perforations where the world can seep in and the Spirit can leach out.
Below is one of my all-time favourite paintings. It doesn’t have the ethereal beauty of a Monet or the moody intensity of a Turner. It lacks the brush work of a Rembrandt or the light and shade of a Vermeer. Not only that , but its title ‘clairvoyance‘ is enough to put many preachers off – let alone the fact that much of Magritte’s other work shows a preoccupation with sexuality to make your toes curl!
Despite all of that, this painting inspires me. As I mentioned earlier, I love to paint when I preach, and I want to paint like the man in the picture. Where I see sinners, God sees potential saints. Where I see brokenness, God sees restoration. Where I see failure, God sees the potential for success. In other words God has clairvoyance – or clear-seeing,and I’m longing to have some of it myself in 2011.
Preaching that rings true
I was struck as I was praying this morning by the difference between the dull “thunk” of striking a block of metal and the clear ring of striking that metal when it has been molten, poured, cast,tuned and hung as a bell. Before God can get a true note out of the preacher there is a major process of change, tuning and clarifying which has to go on. In the days of traditional bell manufacture a higher note was achieved by a craftsman shaving away metal from the lower rim of the bell. To get a lower note he had to get right up inside and shave some of the metal from the bell’s inner surface.
In the Orthodox church the dedication of a new bell is a solemn moment in the church’s life. As I head out like others to preach today, I leave you with these words from a Russian consecration service for a new bell:
That He will bless this bell to the glory of His holy name with His heavenly blessing, let us pray to the Lord.
That He will grant it the grace that all who hear its sound, whether by day or by night, shall be roused to the glorification of His holy name, let us pray to the Lord.
That by the voice of its ringing all destructive winds, storms, thunder and lightning, and all harmful weather and destructive things of the air may be appeased, calmed and cease to be, let us pray to the Lord.
That it may drive away every power, craft and slander of invisible enemies from all His own faithful people who shall have heard the voice of its ringing, and arouse them to the observance of His commandments, let us pray to the Lord.
That Thy faithful servants, having heard the voice of its peal, may be strengthened in piety and faith, and with courage, may oppose all the slanders of the devil, and overcome them by prayer and by the everlasting glorification of Thee, the True God.
May it be so.