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Annie's Chemistry Set

A real goldmine for preachers is the writings of Annie Dillard.  Her thoughtful, intimate journals - beginning with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and continuing through  Teaching a Stone to Talk and several other slim, but richly meaningful volumes - contain her spiritual reflections, often after spending long periods of time immersed in the natural world.  Annie Dillard is, quite simply, one of the greatest spiritual writers of our time, in her typical humble, understated way.

That having been said, it still doesn't mean her stuff can't be overused.  The following quotation has cropped up in sermons so often - and for good reason, because it's so good - that, with deep regret, we pin it to the Old Chestnut Tree. Your people have almost certainly heard it from the pulpit many times before. It's the sort of quotation whose surprising juxtaposition of metaphors (think blue-haired church ladies in hardhats) goes off like a firecracker the first time a person hears it, but isn't nearly so combustible the second, third, fourth and even fifth time around.  Use it at your peril:

"On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return."

- Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (HarperCollins, 1988), p. 52.
Watch out, preacher, don't mix those two old bottles togeth... Boom!