Guiseppe Cupertino, a retired minister living in Switzerland, has written many articles and is the author of the book Have You Solved These Problems?

 

A museum may not seem the most likely place to get some tips on a well-rounded ministry, but—well, it happened at the Louvre . . .

"It was only in 1820 that this statue was discovered," the guide was saying, pointing a bony finger at the Venus of Milo. "You can admire its expression of majestic nobility, but, alas, there are no arms. Only two stumps. Time has mutilated it. What a pity!"

That's when it happened. I seemed to hear a voice, as if another guide had slipped up behind me and was whispering in my ear.

"Don't be startled," it said. "I'm not a professional guide. My services will cost you nothing. Actually, I'm here to suggest a few lessons that may help you in your ministry. You see, some ministers are like Venus of Milo. Some have wonderful heads for thinking, but no arms to put their thinking into practice. Some read broadly—everything they think is indispensable for good preaching: ancient history, the innumerable fables of mythology, the detours of human philosophy, the sophisms, the latest news. Some pile specialty on specialty, going from one course to an other—and reach retirement without ever having really ministered. Others conceive many plans and programs to save the- world; but the plans remain plans. Such preachers are like Venus of Milo, good heads but no arms."

Just then the guide finished his spiel and moved on. As the crowd jostled me, seeking to be near the guide, I turned to inspect my instructor, but could pick no one out of the surge of tourists.

I followed the guide and his tourist entourage to another statue—the winged Victory of Samothrace. "Look at the beauty of it!" said the guide, shifting again into his professional voice. "What proudness in its body, in its wings. Alas, here also the centuries have bequeathed us a glorious statue—this time without a head ..."

Suddenly there was the voice at my ear again, a bit of melancholy in it this time as it continued its troubling reflections.

"Another statue you can admire in part," it said. "Wings, but no head. Just like those pious ministers, deeply devoted to God, whose devotion is not based on knowledge. Or like those who consume themselves to the point of exhaustion, but whose work is not preceded by reflection and planning. They have the best of intentions; they would 'fly,' if possible, but their work never gets off the ground. It lacks organization and foresight. They have arms and even wings, but no head."

This time, as we moved along, I didn't even look around. It must be my imagination, I thought—or was I really afraid of what I would see? In front of Michelangelo's David, the voice spoke again. But this time it was comforting.

"Here at last," it said, "you can con template a balanced worker, with a head to think and hands to act. Remember the story? Before the terrible Goliath the young shepherd felt his weakness. Goliath had armor, David only a simple sling. But with faith in God and his sling at the ready, he went out unafraid to meet the giant. And he conquered him.

''What a contrast between the sophisticated armor of Goliath and the simple sling of the young shepherd! So preachers will sometimes meet giants who will defy them with sophisticated scorn and polished invective. If they will then remember God's promises and put on 'the whole armor of God,' giants will fall; no one will be able to stand against them. So contemplate the ideal worker: a head to think and pray, and arms to act. The Venus of Milo and the Victory of Samothrace are eloquent symbols of human limitations, in contrast to the Bible examples of balanced men who prepare plans and with faith and vigor put them into action."

Just like the perfect Man did, I found myself thinking. The Pattern Man. One who ever increased in wisdom and stature; a man of prayer who arose from His knees to walk among humanity with the healing touch.

How long I stood lost in thought I don't know. The crowd had moved on. From somewhere down a corridor I could hear the professional tones of the guide. There was no one near me. But then I didn't expect there to be. Preachers have a way of slipping into homiletic reveries, I assured myself. Still, I cannot look at a picture of the Venus of Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, or Michelangelo's David with out remembering . . .

And sometimes, across the years, I still seem to hear that melancholy yet comforting voice whispering, "Behold the Man!"


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Guiseppe Cupertino, a retired minister living in Switzerland, has written many articles and is the author of the book Have You Solved These Problems?

August 1979

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