I’ve lost track of the number of times my wife has told me, “I love you.” Next Friday, we’ll have been married for ten years. If you add in the six years we were dating (which we’ll also celebrate this month), she’s been telling me she loves me half of my life. Her love comes unconditionally. She’s taken the promises she made to me at our wedding seriously, loving me even in spite of parts of me that aren’t very lovable.
But her unconditional love does not mean passive acceptance. It’s a love that leads to transformation. When she says the words, “I love you,” I am reminded of who I am to her as well as the things she has endured with me and for me. I am reminded of who she is. In her proclamation, I remember that I love her too, that I have made my own vows to her, and – stirred by this reminder of her love – I am compelled to abandon those less-lovable parts of me so that I might love her more.
When the preacher stands in the pulpit, Jesus Christ proclaims his love for his Bride, the Church. When the preacher stands in the pulpit, the Holy Spirit fills those gathered with the love of Christ. When the preacher stands in the pulpit, by the Holy Spirit and in the love of Jesus Christ, we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
As the Bride of Christ, this love of Christ is the proclamation we needed to hear when God first wooed us. The proclamation from the pulpit is never one of simple moralism, never one of mere “second chances,” never one of conditional love. It is a proclamation of God’s work. It is the reminder that God found us when we loved being lost, died for us when we loved death, rose for us when we rejected life, and sits in power for us even as we reject God’s power.
As the Bride of Christ, this love of Christ is the proclamation we need to hear from Christ again and again. The proclamation from the pulpit is never one that succumbs to the whims of time. It is timeless and timely. The lectern and the pulpit are inseparably intertwined. The words of Scripture spoken at the lectern are the timeless wedding vows of our Lord. We know what his promises are because he has given us his word in Scripture; we know that his promises are true because the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, speaks them. The pulpit is where we hear those eternal promises in the here and now, to us and for us. And we are transformed. The love of Christ that met us without conditions now conditions us!
And as the Bride of Christ, this love of Christ is the proclamation we make to the world as the Holy Spirit works in us, through us, and beyond us. The proclamation from the pulpit is never meant to stay there. Amen.