Keep Your Face To The Sun
Keep Your Face To The Sun
We’ve been looking at the five activities of the speech writer, or preacher. They are: the invention of ideas, the organization of ideas; ways to communicate those ideas in relevant, appropriate language; forceful ways to deliver those ideas; and specific methods for gaining mental and emotional command of one’s material. You can read more about those activities in a couple of posts ago. Here’s the link. I want to begin this post about forceful ways to deliver ideas with an ancient legend about the heliotrope, a flower that demonstrates how to keep your face to the sun at all times.
The legend comes to us from the ancient Greeks. Apollo, the god of the sun, according to ancient Greek lore, loved Clytie, a water nymph. Unfortunately, Apollo abandoned the nymph as a lover. Clytie, as the story goes, was horribly grief stricken. For nine days and nights she sat on the river bank, without eating, drinking or sleeping. She would stay awake all night, looking at the night sky, waiting for the sun to rise. Then, when dawn would break, she would watch the sun, which in Greek lore was Apollo driving his chariot. As the ball of fire moved from East to West, she would follow it. Then, when night came, she would resume her dark vigil, waiting once again for the sun to rise, so she could watch Apollo’s progress across the sky.
The gods pitied her, as the story goes, and changed her into the majestic flower, the heliotrope, that follows the sun. The name heliotrope is from two Greek words, hello, or sun, and tropos, to turn. The flower, then, became a symbol of eternal love.
Some of those old Greek legends are rather strange, for sure, but this one has a metaphor for the preacher. Keep your face to the sun in your preaching. For me, that means that in my preaching I always have to remember that it is about Jesus, it is about the cross, and it is about God’s love.
Keeping Your Face to the Sun or to Darkness
I went through a phase in my life where I dealt with depression. During that time, I became a rather negative preacher. I bewailed how bad things were in the world. The failure of Christians to live up to their God-given responsibilities was a favorite theme. When some people went to another church, I was quick to cry against the consumer idea that if you’re unhappy here, just go elsewhere. It was not a pleasant time for me or my family–or the church.
It was around that time that I began studying preaching. I wanted to know how to turn this activity into an art, and so I read and listened to experts. One person that I read put his main principle so simply that I almost dismissed his idea. He said that to preach successfully, you always have to turn to Jesus in your sermon. If you are preaching on an Old Testament passage, show how it ties to Jesus. A New Testament passage should always find a connection to Jesus. Or, in the terms that I’m putting in this blog, keep your face to the sun in your preaching.
The Turnaround from Darkness to Sun
So, I decided to try it. My preaching became more positive, because it is difficult to talk about Jesus and be negative. I began to fall in love with Jesus again myself, and that was a delight. The love of God began to move my heart to the point that the depression began to ease (with the help of a good Christian counselor). People began to respond to my messages more positively, and the church began to grow again.
So, this post is short, but the point is meant to be applied in the long term. Keep your face to the sun as you preach. You’ll be happier, and your people certainly will be.