Rampart of the Word
I have seen art deco–style pulpits, boxes with fronts that come to obtuse points: forward, forward, as the engines of history turn, forward with the Lord of hosts and right angles. I have seen others plain and polished, austere and iconoclastic, self-effacing even, as though they would be secretly embarrassed to distract from the speaker. Way up in the north woods, I have seen still others that look as though they have just sprouted out of the ground: narrow trunks of white birch trees lashed with twine into ragged, ribbed stands.
Below the decorative level, each of these pulpits hides its true purpose, which is to bear the weight of the universe upon a slanted shelf. This is where the Bible sits, inches above a Styrofoam cup of water.
From a height of six feet the functionality is apparent, but for earthbound toddlers a normal pulpit rises like a wooden rampart under the distant vault of the sanctuary ceiling. Climbing up the pastor’s side to peer out across empty pews is like ascending a watchtower to survey the site of an approaching battle, the affixed microphone below your gaze an oratory catapult.
I have watched aged hands grip the sides of a pulpit enough times to know that the rampart imagery is not inapt. Consider what must be overcome in the act of preaching. While standing in front of dozens or hundreds you must, by some grace, gather what greased words you can and attempt to string them into sentences and paragraphs. This in the absurd hope of conveying eternal verities to a crowd that often is unimpressed by verities, even the eternal ones.
Wordless opposition is aloft in every zone of your visual field. What can save you? What can shelter you from this falling cloud of bored looks and ...
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