I love preaching. I hate preaching. The best description is Jeremiah's: it is like fire in the bones. It is holy work and dreadful work. It exhausts and it exhilarates, kindles and consumes.

On Mondays, I am charred remains. The hotter I burned on Sunday—the more I preached with fiery conviction and bright hope—the more burned to the ground I am on Monday. I'm restless, but I don't have initiative to do anything or, if I do, the energy to sustain me in it. I'm bone-weary, suffering what the desert fathers called acedia: an inner deadness from the hot sun's scorching.

Worst of all, Monday is lived with the knowledge that I am called to do it all over again next Sunday. Mondays are the days I would rather sell shoes.

But then Sunday comes, and the bones burn again. I am once more a firebrand freshly hot in the hand of God. If I don't preach, I am left with an ache like sorrow. I chafe worse from not preaching than from preaching.

"But if I say, 'I will not mention him or speak any more his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary holding it in; indeed, I cannot" (Jer. 20:9).

So I love it, and I hate it.

The surprise is that ten years of preaching has not diminished this. It has, instead, heightened and sharpened it. Every Sunday there's the passion if I preach, the aching if I don't. On Monday, either way, there's a daunting road both too long and too short that I must walk to next Sunday. Preaching is not a job. It is fire.

How shall we live with this rhythm of fire and ashes and fire again?

What brings fire alive


Ron Howard's movie Backdraft is the story of firemen. But the movie is really about fire: its devastating power and alluring promise, its intricate patterns and bewildering surprises, ...

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Winter
Winter 2002: Preaching to the Times  | Posted
Energy  |  Passion, Spiritual  |  Preachers  |  Preaching  |  Renewal  |  Soul
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