Slender, cross-eyed, and handsome

The Rev'd George Whitefield

The Rev’d George Whitefield

“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” – George Whitefield (1714-1770)

A preacher’s search for a new church home following retirement is often an exercise in sin, a prolonged, prideful discontent with the state of the churches one visits.

George Whitefield seems to have spent his whole ministry offending and displeasing, although the huge crowds he drew outside the church walls lead me question how offensive or displeasing his sermons were.

An honest word from a real human being 

Perhaps the photograph of this heralded Anglican priest, “the Father of the Great Awakening,” and this PBS documentary description of him illuminate why the preacher who offended and made his hearers displeased with themselves drew the crowds.

“Slender, cross-eyed and handsome, George Whitefield was an Anglican priest and powerful orator with charismatic appeal.”

While others were reading their sermons from prepared manuscripts, George knew that good preaching is different from a public reading at the book store. He memorized his sermons or spoke extemporaneously with gestures considered too dramatic by the more stoic New England preachers. But one suspects there may have been something more to his success. Perhaps his eyes communicated a real human being, someone unable to hide behind being merely slender or handsome, a man whom frail and vulnerable human beings didn’t mind hearing an honest word that offended and or made them displeased with their own posturing games of pretense.

In honor of George Whitefield, a recently retired pretentious Presbyterian preacher worshiped at a nearby Episcopal Church. The word from the pulpit was deliciously real. He didn’t commit the preacher’s sin. He’s going back next Sunday.

Prepare our hands for touch

This  prayer by Ernesto Barros Cardoso of Brazil is a nice follow-up to yesterday’s post about the need for embodied spirituality and the need to recover the senses, including the gift of touch.

God of Life Prepare our hands for a touch

A new and different touch

Prepare our hands for a touch

A touch of encounter

A touch of awakening

A touch of hope

A touch of feeling

Many are the worn-out gestures

Many are the movements frozen in time

Many are the useless excuses just to repeat attitudes…

Give us daring

To create new titles of community

New links of affection

Breaking away from old ways of relating,

Encouraging true, meaningful ways to move into closeness.