Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Abuses of the Pulpit

The Rev. Andrew Mead hits the nail on the head in a brief summary of what constitutes abusing the pulpit rather than faithfully proclaiming the Gospel.  AAK shares it at Sed Angli in a posting entitled "Abuses of the Pulpit."  Here's what Fr. Mead writes:

I also believe, and have since my seminary days, that clergy are ordained to deliver the Gospel and the catholic, apostolic Faith of the Church. Over the 40-plus years since then, three general abuses of the pulpit in churches have come in successive waves: 1) using the sermon to advance a political agenda; 2) using the sermon to engage in psycho-babble; and, more recently, 3) using the sermon to focus on the person of the preacher. Of course the Gospel often touches upon politics, or psychology, or the personal life of the homilist; and these can be useful introductions to the Gospel. But the subject is the Good News of JESUS. The Apostle has it, as ever, just right: 'We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake' [2 Corinthians 4:5].

I've heard all three of these abuses from the pulpit, including one on Easter Day in which the preacher talked about his spiritual journey for the entire sermon (not one single meaningful word about the resurrection of Jesus!).  Perhaps one of the more egregious instances was listening to a clergy colleague talk from the pulpit about his dog defecating while taking a walk in the rain.  If only that sermon had been about politics or psycho-babble instead!

Fr. Mead reminds us just how important it is that those of us entrusted with the authority of preaching God's word focus on Jesus and not ourselves.  It can be quite a challenge.  As one person commenting on Fr. Mead's thoughts put it on Facebook: "Perhaps the biggest challenge for the preacher, especially this one, is how to be appropriately personal in the process of attempting to apply the Scriptures to the challenge of being a Christian in today's world." 

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