Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adoration in Preaching during Holy Week

I heard a speaker once describe C.S. Lewis' take on the old poets writing about the virtues. Lewis said the poets weren't writing poems to teach us about virtues but were writing poems simply to adore the virtues. They were enchanted by the virtues.

Along the lines of adoration, consider Billy Collins' frustration in teaching poetry to college freshmen:

Introduction to Poetry
Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Poetry 180

We preachers sometimes work too hard in our attempt to figure out "what it means," when we should just be singing. If I ever had a better reaction to isagogics than "watersking across the surface, waving at the author's name on the shore," I've forgotten it. I am afraid I've done my share of torturing texts.

What we ought to do, I think, particularly in Holy Week, is hold the words of Holy Scripture, the account of Our Lord's last days in His humiliation, "up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive." "Drop a mouse into" the Word "and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside" the prophet's or apostle's "room and feel the walls for a light switch."

Or just relax. Bask in the beauty and joy of God's Word showing God's Love in the death and resurrection of the Son. Stop "interpreting." Start adoring, singing, praising. Remember, O dusty man, a week from this Sunday our out-loud Hallelujahs return. Jesus betrayed, bloody, hated, tortured, and dead, lives. Jesus lives.

Jesus lives. And Jesus gives Himself alive to His friends. Thus I now type, what the fast keeps me from saying or singing for a time, what my heart whispers all Lent-long, what faith sings and which refuses to be ever fully silenced, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!" Jesus died. Yes, Jesus died and died for me, but Jesus lives. Hallelujah.

Let the mouse probe his way around that for a while.


  1. This shows that 1) we are moderns, and 2) we lack imagination. We've forgotten how to be children as God's children. We don't jump from one couch to another trying to avoid the lava anymore. We can't see in our mind's eye what the text lays before us. We have become bored with the Scriptures, with liturgy, with our Lord. We don't enjoy the Scriptures anymore. We don't marvel at them. We don't enjoy and marvel at the liturgy, either. That we enter the heavenly holy of holies by the blood of Jesus (Heb 12). It's hidden from our eyes, but we don't even see it in our mind's eye. And this is one of the most formidable temptations of the evil one: the temptation to boredom. It is idolatry.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. This was a very profound thing masquerading as a casual, chance observation. It reminds me of when Christ says that one speaks from the overflow or abundance of the heart. Also, of all the times I read, "thus Boethius sings." And of many other good things.

  3. Collins is one of my favorite. Here's a link to one of his made animated:

    Pr. Timothy Winterstein


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