24 January 2008

Gospel Pot-rattlers

Reflecting on St. Timothy in particular and the Pastoral Office in general reminded me of a most excellent quote that I have treasured for years. It's certainly not intended to lead the preacher to give in to the temptations of his own laziness in sermon preparations. Rather, it's intended to comfort the preacher that his homiletical task is to feed the flock and to do so in a faithful manner, using the gifts and talents that he has received from God. Once again I give thanks and credit to Robert Farrar Capon for a most excellent insight, especially in giving me the phrase (and the mindset) of a "Gospel pot-rattler."
After all the years the church has suffered under forceful preachers and winning orators, under compelling pulpiteers and clerical bigmouths with egos to match, how nice to hear that Jesus expects preachers in their congregations to be nothing more than faithful household cooks. Not gourmet chefs, not banquet managers, not caterers to thousands, just Gospel pot-rattlers who can turn out a decent, nourishing meal once a week. And not even a whole meal, perhaps; only the right food at the proper time. On most Sundays, maybe all it has to be is meat, pasta, and a vegetable. Not every sermon needs to be prefaced by a cocktail hour full of the homiletical equivalent of Vienna sausages and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts; nor need nourishing preaching always be dramatically concluded with a dessert of flambéed sentiment and soufléed prose. The preacher has only to deliver food, not flash; Gospel, not uplift. And the preacher’s congregational family doesn’t even have to like it. If it’s good food at the right time, they can bellyache all they want: as long as they get enough death and resurrection, some day they may even realize they’ve been well fed. (Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Grace, Eerdmans, 1988, p. 92)


  1. In fact, flabeed senitment and soufleed prose, flash and fancy oration detract. People tend to pay more attention to them than to the Gospel.


  2. Too true, Anastasia! I remember many years ago using an illustration of giving up chocolate cake for Lent (I certainly didn't use any flambeed sentiment or soufleed prose; only a most rudimentary understand then of the Lenten disciplines on my part! ;-). I think most people who heard me then thought I didn't like chocolate cake (nothing could be further from the truth!) and missed the whole point of "giving up something for Lent." So, yes, distractions can come far too easily.