As a seasoned pastor, I have had the privilege to preach at a number of churches. Even as a seminary student I had the opportunity to speak in a number of small churches in rural communities throughout Mississippi and western Alabama. People would be surprised what might be found in some of the pulpits in those churches. In more than a few I saw brass plaques fastened to the tops. Some were memorials to significant figures from that particular congregation’s history. Some were Bible verses or inspirational quotes.
Perhaps because of my experience, seeing the inside and backside of a number of pulpits, I particularly appreciated the note by James Montgomery Boice from his exegetical commentary on John 12.20-23:
As a preacher and public speaker it falls to my lot to see a side of pulpits that congregations seldom see. On the audience side of the pulpit there is usually ornamentation, perhaps a carved figure or a cross. On the speaker’s side there are less glamorous things: buttons to push, wires to trip over, stacks of books, glasses, fans, heaters, squeaky boards, and so on. I have been in pulpits held up by hymnbooks. I have been in pulpits equipped with a clock – so the speaker knows when to stop. Sometimes there are signs: “The service ends at 12:00 noon” or “When the red light goes on you will have just two minutes remaining.” Obviously, I am not always as impressed with the pulpits as I trust the audiences are with the messages that come from them.
There is one pulpit that I always remember favorably, however. It is the pulpit of the little chapel on the campus of the Stony Brook School, located at Stony Brook, Long Island. I suppose that there are times when the backside of this pulpit is filled with hymnbooks and glasses of water too. There may even be buttons. But I have never noticed these things when I have been there, because of something else. That something else is a quotation from the Bible, which faces the preacher as he stands to address his congregation. It is a short quotation, but an arresting one. It simply says, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”(John 12.21)
Note to self: This is always an appropriate reminder when given the privilege to preach or teach God’s Word.
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