12/01/2008

Mystery of Preaching

Preaching is just an absolute mystery. Kelly always asks me Saturday night, "Do you have a sermon?" Usually I say, "Yes, I think so." (I preach without notes, so having something on paper doesn't quite make it a sermon yet.) Some Sundays I get up and know the whole service is gonna be great. Usually I have no idea what will happen. Sometimes even after worship I don't know what happened.

This Sunday, preaching on one of my favorite themes (wake up) I just couldn't get from one point to the next very clearly. I felt I hadn't made much of the main point at all. I sat down and wished I could get up and apologize and hope people would come again for another try the next week.

But in the hours after the sermon yesterday several people said it was a good sermon or, more importantly, that it touched them. Most of them told me this in email so they didn't see my quizzical face. What made it good? I can't tell.

Sometimes it feels like preaching is like taking a walk in a wooded park -- lovely, interesting turns, fairly sure footing. Somedays it feels like walking a tight rope, out in the air holding onto barely nothing at all, wondering what will happen if I fall. That's how it felt yesterday. Except afterwards I'm wasn't sure if I got anywhere or not, or if I just left it all out there, hanging in the breeze.

It's times like these that remind me my preaching isn't really mine. I try to do my prep work, show up (in more ways than one) on Sunday, and let it go. And what happens then is always a surprise. At least to me.

4 comments:

johnmeunier said...

I know exactly how you feel.

Keep wandering in those woods.

ymp said...

That's pretty much how I felt about my last sermon. It is reassuring to know that I'm not alone.

Craig L. Adams said...

Life in parish ministry constantly reminds me that the experience of preaching and the experience of hearing the preacher are two different things. When I feel I failed, I'm judging by (a.) how inspired I felt and (b.) whether I accomplished my preconceived goals. But, my experience of the message is not the listeners experience. This insight cuts both ways. When I feel inspired, or when I feel I've expressed myself well, this does not mean that my listeners were inspired — or that they got the point!

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, what made your sermon so good Sunday was it had a different focus. Many sermons I hear tend to be a challenge to get out and do something. When listening to the reading and catching on to the theme "Awaken" I assumed this may happnen. I like these sermons. It's like a little pep rally at the beginning of my week. But you took a somewhat different route and encouraged us to wake up and see, not what we can do, but what good is already being done. It was nice to think about.

It is good to be challenged, but it is also nice to be reminded of the good that is happening around us all the time. I think that is what made your sermon so good on Sunday.