I was given the assignment to write a one page essay presenting an image of preacher that I find helpful. I’m sure things like “shepherd,” “prophet,” or “visionary leader” were what the professor had in mind. Being who I am, I went a different direction. Here’s the paper I’m turning in this afternoon. And I wonder why nobody at Vanderbilt takes me very seriously…
Divinity 2801: Fundamentals of Preaching
Assignment 4: Image of the Preacher
January 25, 2012
After considering a wide variety of options for the image of the preacher that I found most helpful, I landed in an unusual place. This will, at first glance, undoubtedly call into question the level of seriousness with which I approached this assignment. However, I truly feel that this is a helpful metaphor with legitimate implications. The image I have chosen is not found in Scripture nor in theological documents, but rather in the kitchen section of your local department store. The image of a preacher that I find most helpful is that of a pasta maker.
Pasta makers (or pasta machines as they are sometimes called) are, according to WiseGeek.com, “kitchen devices that help knead and shape pasta dough into many different varieties of fresh pasta.” They have the ability to take raw pasta dough and turn it into appropriate pasta for any culinary situation. For fun, informal meals including children, pasta makers manufacture spaghetti. For those people who want a little more substance and filling, pasta makers produce lasagna. For a more formal, traditional audience, pasta makers generate fettuccine or maybe even a nice bow-tie pasta. In all cases, the content of the pasta is the same. It’s the same ingredients, same consistency, same substance. What changes is the outward shape.
When I think about the connection between a pasta maker and a preacher, the following words from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians come to mind:
“Although I’m free from all people, I make myself a slave to all people, to recruit more of them. I act like a Jew to the Jews, so I can recruit Jews. I act like I’m under the Law to those under the Law, so I can recruit those who are under the Law (though I myself am not under the Law). I act like I’m outside the Law to those who are outside the Law, so I can recruit those outside the Law (though I’m not outside the law of God but rather under the law of Christ). I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means.”
(1 Corinthians 9:19-22 CEB)
In all situations, Paul preached the same gospel, the same Word of God. It was the same ingredients, the same consistency, the same substance. What changed in each of these instances for Paul was the outward appearance.
Paul had a clear grasp that context and content were two separate things. I think it is important for today’s preachers to remember and be mindful of this distinction. While our content, the inner substance of the Word of God we preach, should remain the same, we need to be always mindful of our context, and shift our outward shape accordingly. Rather than forcing fettuccine preaching on every assembly, perhaps we could just as readily produce some lasagna or spaghetti from time to time.