It happened in the middle of Advent. I wrote a sermon that was completely and totally me. It was one of those sermons that just poured out of me. It wasn’t forced. I didn’t agonize over it. It was just done. I didn’t need to obsess about it anymore. It said everything I needed to say.
What’s scary about this is that it was so true. It was so me. I was trained not to use I statements in my sermons because that interferes with the way that we hear God. Certainly I am not the only one that is hearing from God so I should just stay out of it. This sermon ignored that rule. It may have even spit at that rule because it was that honest and that true and there was just so much of me in it.
Obviously, this made me nervous. I was nervous as I preached. I said things while preaching that were not in my manuscript. I can’t even remember what they were but I do remember an older member of the Church Council saying how much he liked that I referenced going to a bar. Did I really say that? Then again, why shouldn’t I say that? Still, it’s not the preacher I’ve been. It’s not who I was trained to be so this new style where I’m throwing caution to the wind and telling the truth is a little unnerving. Holy maybe. But terrifying. Because I tried it again. The next time I was in the pulpit, I preached this sermon.
Once again, just as the time before, people marveled. They told me it was the best sermon they ever heard. They sent me emails sharing their thoughts. They wanted to talk more about the things I had said — when really all that I said was the honest to God truth. It happened again today. They offered the same exclamations. They told me it was a marvel that I had hit three home runs. They were thrilled. I am still shocked. I am still not sure what it means to tell the truth about myself so authentically — in both the stories I share, the convictions I express and the lens I offer to the Scripture. I won’t deny it. It’s working. Something is resonating but I was always told that a preacher should spend 20 hours in sermon preparation. I haven’t done that. I may have hit 7 hours but certainly no more than that. I haven’t been studying as I’ve been concentrating on writing curricula for Lent, organizing the Confirmation program and trying to squeeze in some pastoral visits here and there. I haven’t put 110% into my preaching but the sermons I am preaching seem to excel. So, I wonder, is this really what it feels like to preach the best sermon someone has ever heard? Am I too much of a perfectionist to want more? Or am I just trying to find God in all of this?