Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Amazing Race

Sundays begin around 3:45 AM for me. My alarm is set for 4:00 AM but I rarely get to hear it go off. Usually my sermon has roused me by then. By 4:30 AM on Sundays I am showered and dressed. Going through my mind is an energizing hybrid of prayer and preaching. (Let it be known that by this time I have not typed a word of my sermon. But don’t be confused by this. A sermon is never done until it’s been preached. Any preacher worth their salt, even if they have had a manuscript of their sermon done since Tuesday, will know that a sermon is in some ways a living thing. And until it has had a chance to live those brief moments of its proclamation then it has been something less than a sermon.)

My sermons incubate in the pages of relatively expensive, Italian, leather-bound journals. Those pages receive the observations of my study, the wrestling prayers of my discernment, random thoughts and ideas for flow, illustration, and how it all fits into a much bigger picture. However, in my thinking, the sermon is still a thing that all of this is only hinting at. It’s like I’m trying to listen in on a conversation from across the room filled with the noise of my own invited distractions. And no matter what gets scribbled into my journal or trapped by Microsoft Word early on Sunday morning, those things are still not my sermon.

Whatever it is I wind up typing and printing out feels more like a leash for myself anything else. “Lord, do more than I have done,” is the only right prayer to pray for one who would hope to preach. That is not to diminish the hard work of good study and the wrestling over creative inspiration. However, if God were bound to the limits of my study and creativity then I would sooner choose to be mute than aspire to channel His Word through my own grit and whim. Study and creativity are my service to God. It is the least I can do. But Lord help the church if God’s work through the proclaimed Word is tethered to the least I could do.

Then I preach with ice-cold hands. Every Sunday. Sometimes I remember how to preach and sometimes I forget. But I am always glad it’s over even though I am humbled to have done it. Even when I am driving home after worship, regardless of how I well or poorly I think I have executed the task, I ask God to continue to speak to his people. It feels nice to be out of the way.

Eighteen hours after getting up I'm usually sitting on the couch with my wife watching The Amazing Race. The Amazing Race is a reality TV show in which teams of people race around the globe day after day trying to make it to the end. We watch them exhaust themselves on a race where no one knows what is coming next. They fight, they fail, they succeed. Some are not good enough to stay in the race. Some continue on. They do their best with what they are given. Each week it’s a new adventure- every team hoping they have what it takes to run one more leg- to move on. Each team that makes it seems road-weary and relieved. Every week it’s the same. Every week it’s different.

And that’s the way my Sunday ends.


1 comment:

  1. Yes, indeed. Like Pastor Karl (Rookie Year) who was really Chuch Westerman says, "Sermons are dixie cups, not stone ware mugs." New wineskins, son. Every Sunday. Your people are blessed. God is glorified. And yo Mama prays.