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Stepping on the Snake

The preacher's unforeseen but unavoidable job.
Stepping on the Snake

In a Roman Catholic hospital in our town, in the elevator hallway, stands a life-size statue of Mary. Her face is perfect serenity. Her body is upright but not tense. Under one of her feet writhes a thickly muscled serpent; in its open mouth, fangs drip poison.

That's what preaching is. Preaching is stepping on the snake.

Children leave during the hymn that precedes the sermon. I enter the pulpit, read the Scripture, and fiddle with my notes; I gather my wits. Nervousness gives way to adrenaline for battle; it swells my awareness. I lift my eyes, open my mouth: the sermon begins.

I've heard of the art of preaching, and I've heard of the art of war. Preparation for preaching and for war requires human creativity. Both activities are acquired crafts. Hand-to-hand combat is not a recital, and neither is preaching. Preaching is an art, but it is not an art show. It isn't a concert, it isn't a speech.

Preaching is a form of aggression. As we preach, Yahweh, the God of war, conducts ...

From Issue:Fall 1995: Biblical Preaching
July/August
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