An anonymous homiletical manuscript of the thirteenth century, produced at Bruges, offers a seven-point comparison between the preacher and a rooster: (1) The rooster beats his sides before crowing; the preacher must mortify himself before preaching. (2) The rooster stretches his neck to crow; the preacher must lift his attention to heavenly things. (3) The rooster crows at certain particular hours; the preacher likewise. (4) The rooster shares his grain with the hens; the preacher must be willing to communicate his truths to others. (5) The rooster attacks his rivals; the preacher must attack all heresies. (6) The rooster shuts his eyes before the sun; the preacher must close his eyes to the blandishments of success. (7) The rooster mounts his wooden roost at nightfall, coming down only at daybreak; amidst temptation, the preacher must fly to the Cross of Christ as his resting place.

The preacher-rooster comparison can be extended further (and not just to the painfully cocky mannerisms of some pulpiteers). As the rooster crowed three times to announce Peter’s denial of his Lord, so contemporary preaching often manifests—wittingly or unwittingly—a denial of the inscripturated Word of God and the Christ on whom it centers. Fulton Sheen, the retired Roman Catholic bishop of Rochester, observed in a recent address before the first National Congress on the Word of God: “People are not listening to us because we are often preaching sociological drivel instead of Christ crucified. We have a cross-less Christ and a Christ-less cross.”

How do we avoid such a tragic situation? Not by the naïve and arrogant assumption that because we are of evangelical or conservative persuasion we are immune to homiletical ills. Preaching is so high ...

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