Wednesday, February 12, 2014

men are human: the preach moment

I've been thinking about Jael the wife of Heber a lot lately. It's hard not to with a steady diet of P.G. Wodehouse and his Scripture Knowledge Prize. Every book you open there she is, so funny, so strong, so like Aunt Agatha who chews up broken bottles and the dreams of young men.

She, Jael, I mean, not Aunt Agatha, is an interesting portrait for our time. When all the men are freaking out, she picks up her tent peg and does what's required. Her warm milk, her soft words, her firm pressure and grip on the hammer, she has it together. She is strong and clever and what you want every young woman to be. Nevertheless she is an indictment against Israel. That she had to do what she did, that the men were all wringing their hands and fussing, is it's own judgement.

Place her in the pulpit and you have a sign of a world gone awry. I always thought this when I was on my way to and then in seminary, listening to young men and women preach and distinguishing no real difference in the quality of the voice, neither in content nor strength. Many times the women were indeed more forceful, more prepared to wield a word of judgement. That is until Matt stood up, in class, and preached an incredibly startling and glorious twenty minutes on how to escape the fire of God's wrath. The class, if I remember, was transfixed and then horrified. This was no tent peg but was a glittering sword. That same term I preached a long "poem" about The Road, and everyone thought it was so charming. Not desiring to shed blood, I gave out the milk and left the peg in my room.

Sometimes God tells the woman to stand up and use what's in her tent. She should not stand helplessly by when evil rides in longing for a rest and a drink. But that's the not the problem, anymore. There are so many women in the pulpit saying so many things in the same tone of voice and very little of it has anything to do with arresting evil. 

When you have the chance to listen to a man, week by week, wielding a sword, you have been given a great gift. The voice of the man should not have to be muted so as not to scare and offend. He should not have to speak very quietly. It is a great sorrow to me that when you finally get the chance of hearing a man preach the voice is often pallid and sorrowful, practically indistinguishable from a woman's (I long to name a number of actual preachers here but I don't want to be unkind nor get in trouble with anyone). 

Matt's preaching through Mark has been the true counter to the weak insufficiency of the modern Man. I think there are several reasons for this. For one, his voice is pitched neither too high nor apologetically. There is no whining timber anywhere in his delivery. For another, he works through a whole text so that a complete theological and exegetical thought is completed. He answers all the questions in the text. Most critically, though, he works hard to bring out the Psychology of the Individual, both the preaching voice of Jesus, the true and perfect man, and the weak and broken thinking and acting of the sinner. In a moment of shameless appealing, I commend the whole series to you--but most especially this last week, the 9th--which is on the internet, somewhere within the reach of Google. Surely you can find it if you look.

I think it was CS Lewis who likened a woman being able to preach to a dog riding a bicycle or doing tricks or something. (I'm not going to bother to look it up so everyone is welcome to correct me.) It's surprising that it is being done at all. It seems to me, all these years later, that the remarkable preach moment is a man really preaching as a man and not as a man trying to be a woman. When you hear it, you should stop and listen and be glad of the rest. Tent peg or no, a sword works so much better.


Anglican Beach Party said...

Superbly stated. I could name some names myself. But I, too, would like to keep out of trouble.


Joyce Carlson said...

What I so like is that you aren't afraid to go out on a limb. Just remember to leave the saw on the ground. I also must add in here that I seriously miss Matt's Tuesday Bible study and would gladly fly from East Africa to America every Monday just to be there in time for it. Woefully, ME