I love preaching. (I was shy enough growing up to still wonder at this delight in speaking in front of people.) I’ve even gotten enough compliments beyond “Nice sermon” to think that I’m at least not horrible at it. I am not naive enough, however, to think that every sermon is my best. It would be nice, but not only does real life intervene, my job can and suddenly I don’t have the time or creative energy to write the best sermon of the week. And it is a weekly deadline. Lightening does strike in the same place, but usually not 52+ times in a row.
In preaching, I often ask people to look at the Biblical text differently (sometimes quite differently), I make jokes, I ask questions, I tell stories, I make comparisons, I talk about money (Jesus did!). Sometimes this all works and people seem to think. Sometimes I worry about who I just offended.
My preaching professor in seminary would tell us that, “when you have a dog of a sermon, walk it proud.” Which works, but better in person. Delivery can cover many shortcomings.
And I podcast my sermons. (More surprisingly, people listen!) Which means that anyone could stumble or search for me and get me at, not only my not-best, but sometimes my worst in quite awhile. (When exactly is my rock bottom worst will be a question for my non-existent biographers or quite existent siblings.)
This bothers me. Not for the sake of my ego. Okay, not just for the sake of my ego. My job in preaching, my role, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I regularly pray that I have the right sermon, a germane point for the people sitting in the pews or on the other side of the speakers. I hope that they leave with something to ponder, some new way of seeing God. But the point of all of that, the purpose of my time and effort, is to point to Jesus Christ, who changes lives.
And when I have not done my best, when my life or my job have unavoidably spilled over into the time I set aside for a sermon, when I am worn out, when the sermon, despite hours of work, has just not settled into a coherent form, I pray harder. That God is still greater than my failings. That whatever it is I have to say on Sunday morning will have meaning for someone. That next week will be better.
But, regardless of what next week winds up being like, there will be more weeks, in all varieties of good and busy. And most every week, I’ll be there preaching and trying.