Each week we select a text and begin a relationship with the words, nuances, implications, and rhetoric we see there. These words from God spring up at all times during our week as we prepare for the preaching event. Sometimes they make their way into our conversations because they have our attention. The preacher will explore other passages that are related because of a desire to fully know the wider text. Scholars and Spiritual men have written books about that text and we devotedly sift through them watching for that spark that will make this sermon memorable and valuable to those who listen. We have conversations with other preachers especially when there are difficulties in the text that we need to ruminate over with a fellow expositor.
We wrestle with the right words to communicate the Divine message of that text in a contemporary way but anchored in an ancient expression. This requires not only our brains but our hearts and our souls. We craft this message in such a way that we believe it will be well received and pray that through our meager efforts God will be at work in strong ways.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.~2 Timothy 2:15
And then Sunday morning comes and we stand before the assembled people of God. Within our minds and hearts there is a blazing message that has come to mean so much to us. But the hearers have not had our experience. This is why it’s hard for preachers to see someone asleep or have people get up and down or chit chat with the person next to them. I have a vivid memory of a sister long ago who would use the sermon time to clip her fingernails. Always during a silent moment… *click* … and no awareness at all of the hours of preparation that went into the moment she blithely *click* ignored. But the truth is the parishioners can’t have the same relationship with this sermon that the preacher has. This is just a reality to face.
All too soon it’s over. The invitation is extended, the preacher is hopeful that this labor has been effective. There are those few who respond in some way to let you know they appreciate this message. There are the rare remarks that reflect that the sermon has been considered, not just heard. But all mean well and seek to speak an encouraging word. This is accepted with gratitude.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! ~Romans 10:13-15
The afternoon arrives and the tired preacher rests. For he knows he must engage a different text this week. The love affair with last week’s text is now but a memory and a new flame has his attention. It’s not an unfaithful type of love affair, but a lifetime relationship with God and His Word that has it’s mountain peaks and valleys.
Your word is completely pure, and Your servant loves it.~Psalm 119:140
I don’t know that anyone other than a preacher can relate to this. I know there are preachers who download an outline and just run with it. Some do not prepare. Some go through seasons of discouragement where that’s all they can do.
But in sanctuaries large and small throughout the world every Sunday a hopeful preacher assumes the mantle of prophet and priest to feed the gathered people a meal from the Word of God. Some are witty, entertaining, sharp. Some are soft spoken, dull by the world’s standards (and even by their own standards), but they use their gift as they can. They’ll speak the eternal Word of God to 10 or 50 or 200 or 1,000 or more. But they will all go home and hope they can do better next week.
Thanks for reading, John.