A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

“Nice sermon pastor.” Really? November 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 6:54 am
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I am always amazed and surprised when someone says to me that they actually listened and got something out of my sermon. I usually figure that they are just being kind or are mistaken. Yesterday was my turn to preach in the rotation that my senior pastor and I set up. I have a love/hate relationship with preaching. I love it in that I am nerdy and love to read, think and explore a text. I love to delve into what people much smarter than I have thought about the text, the intricate meaning of words in Greek or Hebrew, the cultural milieu in which the scripture was written and read how the texts have been applied to people’s daily lives. I love this part and usually I am very adept at stretching this research piece further than I should or have time for.
But then the deadline draws near (read here Friday) and I realize that I need to actually say something about this biblical scripture. Preferably something coherent and meaningful. This is when I hate preaching. All of my self doubt and academic anxiety rises to the surface. What if I have nothing meaningful to say? What if I say something wrong or worse damaging to someone? Yes, I have many friends who say things to me like “The Holy Spirit will guide your words and that won’t happen.” These people clearly underestimate my ability to thwart the Holy Spirit.
I preach about every three weeks and so this anxiety bubbles up with some regularity. I had hoped that as I preach more, it would go away. But in the four years I have been preaching, that has not happened. I am positive each time I preach that I am about to lose all credibility, reveal for all to see how crazy I am and how little I actually know about anything. Each time I stand up to preach, I get nervous like when I was five and played my first piano recital.
And that drives me crazy. I can intellectually tell myself that it will be fine and it is silly to be nervous. I am 41 years old with a masters degree for crying out loud. It’s not that different from the teaching that I do ALL the time and with little to no anxiety. And yet, this Sunday I stood up to preach and thought my shaking hands would drop my iPad.
I greatly admire people who can do this every single Sunday and say that they love it. I want to love it and as I said, I do love aspects of it. But the few times when I have had to preach several weeks in a row, I was completely wrung out after about three weeks. For some reason preaching is an emotionally exhausting endeavor that leaves me drained for the rest of the day.
I love hearing about other preachers processes for writing a sermon and I have gleaned some helpful advice. I know one pastor who does some reading, takes a nap and then writes her sermon. Some people always write it on Saturday and don’t worry about it. (That does not work for me for obvious reasons.)
Yet, I have to admit that there is something about knowing that someone actually listened or thought about what I said that is bolstering. It doesn’t lessen my anxiety for the next time I preach but it gives me something to hold onto for a few days anyway. What do I hope for when I preach? What do I think people will do after a “really great sermon” (whatever that might be)? What do I think is really going to happen if I don’t get it right? Now this is where I think the Holy Spirit comes in. I pray that if I do say something stupid that the Holy Spirit would give wisdom to all with the misfortune to be in earshot to know that I am full of BS.
I am grateful for the supportive community that I serve and that I do get feedback. I appreciate both the positive and the critical comments. The critical comments are often the most useful honestly and against conventional wisdom, criticism doesn’t seem to add to my overall anxiety but actually can give me a direction of what NOT to do. Maybe someday it will be less stressful for me but all I know is that I have to do this again in three weeks. I should start worrying now.

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One Response to ““Nice sermon pastor.” Really?”

  1. Sally Says:

    I particularly liked the line about “a masters degree for crying out loud.” Yeah, I did some of that too. And now that I’m retired, I enjoy the preaching of others and am grateful I could lay that burden down.


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