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.


Andy said...

Thanks for sharing, brother. I love that comic and have tried to find it online before to post somewhere but couldn't find it. We think alike. I also love that you slap it right next to such deep, soul-baring comments. Anyone who knows you well will not be surprised by this.

Scott said...

LOL thanks bro! When I saw that comic it seemed straight from God, since I was preaching on this text and the Lord knows how much our family loves Spongebob!

Bill Bell said...

That's an interesting comment about feeling totally drained for days after preaching. The first couple of times I preached (like you, I haven't preached many times), it was a ton of preparation and very wearing. But the last time, which was about a year ago, I neither felt like I was preaching a sermon nor do I approach it the same way. Apparently, I used the work "frickin'" several times, which it was noted no one at this church had ever heard in a sermon before. But the refreshing part was that I wasn't all spent afterward. Though I certainly still fretted about how people received it, did it help, did they think I was funny, did I bore people, etc., etc. ,etc., etc ad naseum...

I have no idea if we started or ended at the same point, but I'm encouraged that you did preach again, but as Scott Holman as he is now, not a caricature of him or what he "should be". THAT would've been exhausting...

Scott said...

Thanks for chiming in, Bill. I don't have much preaching experience to test this theory, but it seems plausible that doing it "differently" produces different results for me, in my body and soul. I hear my mentor E. Peterson here, emphasizing that we can't taste the Jesus life apart from the Jesus Way and the Jesus Truth. Doing preaching this way was, for me, the Jesus Way.

Bill Bell said...

On that note, I just "discovered" Peterson--i.e. if I'd have read him five years ago, I probably would have blown off his writings as definitely "not it". But the bits I've read lately have found me resounding a ton with him. Any recommendations there?

Scott said...

I would recommend all of his stuff, but most relevant to this, I would recommend the following:
The Message Bible
Under the Predictable Plant
The Pastor (memoirs)
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places
Leap Over a Wall