Monday, October 15, 2012
Smoldering Wick (part 4)
I “successfully” delivered my sermon yesterday at Lucas Grove Baptist Church in Upton, KY. I will post the sermon manuscript soon. In the meantime, I thought it would be good to reflect a bit on the process, now that I can look back on it.
First, in the final days before the sermon it became clear to me that this sermon was more like a prayer more than a lecture, and it felt more directed to Jesus than to other people. I pictured him among the congregation, wearing a warm smile as I attempted to make sense of my life and pour it out to him. It almost felt like the kind of message I would want delivered at my funeral.
The physical and emotional toll was not as great as I expected it to be (as it was the last time I preached 6+ years ago). Whenever I used to preach (probably 3-4 times in my entire life!) I would be exhausted in body and soul, experiencing deep emptiness for several days. I think this difference might be related to my following realization.
I don’t think I was doing it to prove myself; there were no big-wigs to impress and no names to drop (they probably wouldn’t recognize the names anyway). There were just simple country people hungry to hear from God and eager to love one another. I and my family felt very welcome. Indeed, the issue of whether or not there will be an opportunity to build my reputation will be a decisive factor when I consider accepting such an invite in the future. This little broken sermon - delivered in a little quiet country church, where there is no chance of being made famous - has some incredible appeal to me. It feels like the only safe context in which “I” could preach.
On Saturday Cheri and I experienced some intense warfare in the midst of some pretty profound failure on my part. The result, by God's grace, was to free me from any belief that good performance on my part would make the next day's sermon effective or life-giving. It was also clear to our entire family that love and brokenness defeated Satan's ploy, at least in this instance.
Lastly, I just wanted to note that of the several people who talked with me after the service, Brother M stands out (don’t want to use his name). He is clearly in a very dark place with a load of suffering far outweighing mine. He took heart from my sermon that maybe there is a fresh way to look at his struggles and at God. I was very encouraged by this. I lingered with this brother for 20-30 minutes, prayed with him, and we began our drive home.