By: Northern Seminary
Flipping through my old seminary books is always an interesting experience. When I read books for class, I mark them up a lot – in pencil, never in pen.
I write comments in the margins.
I argue with the author via post-it note.
The notations cover a variety of experiences. Some are clearly for upcoming papers while others are more personal and deal with relationships or job struggles that were occurring at the time that I was reading the book.
Sometimes I look really intelligent in my post-it pontifications; but more often than not, my pencil marks are pointless for any one other than my past self.
Yet once in a blue moon, there are instances when I flip through a book, and the words of the author himself or herself overcome the pencil underlinings and outshine the bright pink post-it notes.
This very experience happened to me recently as I re-visited my copy of The Wounded Healer by Henri J.M. Nouwen.
As I flipped through the worn pages, I came across this paragraph:
The key word here is “articulation.” Those who can articulate the movements of their inner lives, who can give names to their varied experiences, need no longer be victims of themselves, but are able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering. They are able to create space for the Spirit whose heart is greater than their own, whose eyes see more than their own, and whose hands can heal more than their own.*
What a poignant reminder for preachers! One of the foundational points of A New Kind of Preacher is that preachers need to know themselves. They need to be able to articulate their varied experiences, and they need to be able to articulate the work that God is doing in their lives!
Sadly, the task of weekly preaching often crowds into the Spirit’s space. But preachers must reclaim time and space in order to encounter the Spirit’s heart, eyes, and hands. Once this encounter happens, the preacher will (hopefully!) be able to articulate the work of the Spirit in their sermon. Without such encounters, sermons can become dull, lifeless, Spirit-less affairs. But with such encounters, both the preaching and the preacher come alive!
*Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (New York: Image Doubleday, 2010), 42.