This is perhaps the best compliment/description regarding what it is I think I’m doing and what I think I’m trying to do each time I get up and speak.
And it was such a timely word.
It’s said that when Lincoln finished the Gettysburg Address, he turned to one of his aides (Ward Hill Lamon, as I recall, who was actually more bodyguard than aide) and said, “That speech didn’t scour.” The reference (if he said it) is to a plough that simply won’t “cut it” because so much dirt clings to it that its edge is blunted.
I always walk away from every speech/sermon feeling “that didn’t scour” to one degree or another.
And I suppose that’s the key for every speaker after a speech – especially any pulpit speech:
you have to walk away. But still it’s hard not to furtively ponder just what kind of furrowed earth you leave behind. Furrows of fear. Furrows of faith. Furrows of self-satisfaction, self-justification, self-bolstering, self-loathing; of indifference, of mere amusement and entertainment. Furrows of true contemplation, of God contemplation, of self-reflection, furrows inviting Life.
I suppose when I started in this pulpit business some thirty-four years ago my purpose was more to inundate any subject with scripture references. I think it was more about burying my audience with whatever knowledge and info I had accumulated in an effort to remove all doubt rather than inviting them into their own internal dialogue with faith and truth.
I suspect most walked away more exhausted and drenched than sparked.
I’ve also been bombastic and iconoclastic, more often than I would care to admit or know; I’ve been more about overturning perceived tables than setting one.
Few approaches will more aptly succeed in whittling down your audience – or building an unhealthy one.
I thank God daily that much of this fare was dished up and out by me during pre-internet days (at least I hope it’s confined to that era!) and I regularly trust in the second law of thermodynamics to take good care of any and all recordings made in those days. To think of the durability of each word spoken in these days…to realize the potential staying power of spoken words whether recorded or not… (((shudder)))
It’s enough to keep any thoughtful speaker awake at night.
And then the furrow shows through Paul’s post.
Free-form and non-concrete.
Allows the listener to form his/her own opinion on their own.
Presents the Truth in a way I can grasp it, but must wrestle with it too.
An energetic, non-linear style that is fun but that will take a week of chewing to decide what he really means.
Some of these words would have terrified me when I first started out – especially since I was sure that pulpits were all about pouring concrete then – or about pointing to and stomping on the concrete already poured
and long since hardened.
But it is sower and soil and seed that becomes for Christ the primary metaphor of this whole teaching business, so I’ll stick with plows and furrowed soil with some sermons plowing, some sowing, some watering, some harvesting, some doing all of the above in the same moment.
And while it remains true that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is missing it, it’s perhaps not a bad idea to at least pause periodically and ask ourselves the question – whether it’s concerning pulpit exercises or just life:
Just what kind of furrow am I leaving behind me?