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The Pulpit

Every space tells a story. Whether we intend them to or not. As Tera and I prepared our kids for a new school in a new city this fall, we purchased items to decorate their lockers. Each of them picked items that were a reflection of their personalities. Their rooms at home are no different. One step into Brayden’s room will give you a window into what his interests are. Without needing to ask him, you’ll learn who his favorite basketball player is and which team he roots for. Londyn’s room quickly points to the fact that she loves music, her friends and has a snow globe collection that spans the world. Their spaces tell their story.
Our houses of worship are no different. Our faith community and life together center around Word and Sacrament. They are two of the four pillars that the early church organized their lives around that we read about in Acts 2:42. (Of course, fellowship and prayer are also a part of our weekly habits too). When we think about the space within our house of worship, the elements that we find there tell a story.
Our devotional for Lent is taking a closer look into why we do the things we do. The pulpit is the place dedicated to the proclamation of God’s Word. In many confessional, liturgically minded churches, the pulpit has a place of prominence. Often, it is elevated. The pulpit is not elevated to make the servant delivering God’s word look great, but instead, is meant to be a tangible picture of the primacy and authority that Scripture is meant to have within God’s community. Of course, whether standing on a lectern, behind a glass pulpit, or my personal preference, a simple music stand, the pulpit has come to signify the place where God’s people are instructed, encouraged, corrected, challenged and encouraged. The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy to study to himself approved, as one who rightly handled the word of truth.
This is why the pulpit is so important. Not because of what it is per se, or whether it’s a lectern or music stand, but because of what it points to. If God’s word truly is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path as the Psalmist writes, then rightly handling God’s word behind the pulpit is no small matter. The pulpit is not a time for an op-ed, though the preacher will always have an opinion. Nor is it a time for theological abstractions, demonstrating a kind of competency that can only be understood by a select view.
No, the pulpit is meant to point people to the Word made flesh. When Jesus opened the disciples mind to all the Scriptures concerning himself on the long walk to Emmaus, he was setting an example for us today. In our tradition, we often use the interpretive grid of Law and Gospel to allow the Spirit to illuminate the truth of God’s Word within us.
From Genesis to Revelation we find these two themes emerging within the story of Scripture, from the very opening line of Moses’ pen to the final words recorded by John. The pulpit tells us this story: God’s creation is good, humankind was placed in his world to reflect his light and life within the world. Unfortunately, we have missed the mark and brought sin and death into the world. God, in his faithfulness, continues to forgive and call his image bearers into his life, so that we might be a blessing the world. Time and again we fail, pointing us to our need for saving. The irony is that even though God intended us to be a part of his saving action within the world, we end up discovering that we too, are in need of the saving.
Ultimately, the pulpit is there to point us to Jesus. To his life, death, resurrection and ascension. It is a place where we are reminded of his completed work on the cross and our call to respond in faith to what he has already done for us. We live in a day and age where the pulpit no longer always serves this purpose. For us, the pulpit truly is all Jesus, all the time.
When Jesus is preached, the Word of God accomplishes its purposes. No one can hear and believe this good news unless Jesus is preached. Our Gospel message from the pulpit ought to be the same as Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue from Luke 4. We are called to proclaim the good news to the poor, to set the captive and oppressed free, to give the recovery of sight to the blind and let our friends, neighbors and enemies know that because of Jesus, this is still the year of the Lord’s favor.
This is why the pulpit matters and why its there. The written Word points us to the living Word.
The Seven Questions:
1. What are the different kinds of pulpits you have seen in your own experience as you’ve attended church services?
2. Do you have a preference? Why?
3. Think of a time when the Holy Spirit used the sermon to accomplish God’s work within you. What do you remember about what was shared?
4. How should the church use the pulpit to engage the culture in sharing the Gospel message?
5. Why is the proclamation of the Gospel so vital to our community’s mission as ambassadors for Christ? Read the Romans text again as you reflect on this question.
6. Why do you think hearing and are related?
7. How do you connect the Gospel proclamation into action in your everyday life?
Mission Focus:
The Pulpit is there so that God’s Word may be fearlessly shared. However, how we say something is just as important as what we say. For many of our neighbors who don’t attend church, the pulpit is a foreign concept. As a result, you will be the Bible they read each and every week. How can your life be a place that reaches others with the truth and hope of the Gospel?
Your Thoughts: