Stepping into the Pulpit with Utmost Care…

In doing a little application for my sermon on Zechariah 5, I came across this quote by Michael Horton:

Karl Barth wrote about the trepidation that should ordinarily accompany pastors as they climb the steps to the exalted pulpit.

“This does not mean that when pastors speak officially, then with their words they enjoy a sense of papal infallibility.  On the contrary, they know fear and trembling whenever they mount the pulpit.  They are crushed by the feeling of being poor human beings who are probably more unworthy than all those who sit before them.  Nevertheless, precisely then it is still a matter of God’s Word.  The Word of God that they have to proclaim is what judges them, but this does not alter the fact – indeed, it means – that they have to proclaim it.”

If we really appreciated this fact more fully, both as hearers and preachers, said Barth, we would all be in a better position to repent of our laziness and receive God’s benefits through this means of grace.  When we really grasp what is going on in the pulpit, we can hardly approach the task as hearers with our demands as to what should and should not be said in view of our “felt needs.”  And as pastors, we would know better than to approach the pulpit with casual familiarity or a sense of self-confidence.

Horton, A Better Way, 69.

Perhaps the words that adorn many a synagogue are applicable to us preachers and worshipers as well as we enter in humility and reverence into corporate worship of the Triune God:

דע לפני מי אתה עומד

Know before whom you are standing.

The miracle of it all is that God is pleased – week in and week out – to use a scum-bag like me to change hearts and to bring the life changing power of the gospel to bear in the lives of his people.  Praise be to him who is faithful to his people, even when the words of his servants the preachers fail them, and strengthens the faith of his people in a way that is foolishness to the Greeks!


3 thoughts on “Stepping into the Pulpit with Utmost Care…”

  1. When we visited Malawi in 2007 one of the things that impressed me most was the sheer bulk of their pulpits! They could not be moved to facilitate a skit (Horton talks about this in A Better Way as well)! The pulpits were raised off the floor about 3 feet and there were stairs leading up to them. Now, what is relevant to this post is that whenever the minister walked up the stairs he would stop on the top step and say a prayer before physically entering into the pulpit. It was a great picture of the humbleness with which one must stand before God and his people.


  2. Very cool, Mark. Yeah – I’ve heard about things like that in other traditions. Definitely something very important is conveyed by that.


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