Let me ask you a question:
- When a parishioner tells you your sermon reached in and touched her heart at its core.
- Or a listener tells you your sermon made him consider that he might actually be loved.
- Or in the receiving line after church, a parishioner hugs you and whispers, "Thank you. I really needed to hear that."
what do you think you're doing?
Beyond giving thanks that a particular sermon connected with some listeners, do you ever stop to ponder what exactly your work as a preacher is?
Consider this question by resting in Ephesians 3. 18-20:
"I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ, that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
"I pray that you may have the power to comprehend...so that you may be filled..."
As preachers, our initial work is internal, spent in communion with the text and God.
As preachers, we spend considerable time with a text, trying to comprehend a love that can't be comprehended.
We spend time steeping in the love of Christ until we are saturated with a love that is greater than we can dream of or hope for.
Each week, we get to dive into the texts to comprehend a little more of Christ's love where:
- we find another way we are divinely made, fully known, and generously given all of Christ's love that ever was.
- we finally see the neighbor whom our eyes have always looked past...and feel the inner squirm of disquiet and change looming ahead.
- we discover just how far God goes to forgive our lack of vision
- and we experience an unfurling of gratitude that leads us to make things right.
We dwell in, receive, imagine, read about, play in, wrestle with, resist, are overcome by, and thereby comprehend a little more of Christ's infinite love.
Then, our work moves outward to the expression of what we've experienced internally.
In a sermon, we offer the fullness of Christ's love we have newly comprehended.
After we live inside holy Love we attempt to articulate what can never be fully articulated, so that Christ "is able to accomplish abundantly more than we can ask or imagine."
Using story, description, explanation and our vulnerability as a fellow sojourner, we release what we now know of Christ.
When our knowledge of Christ is released, we cannot predict what will happen. Those with ears to hear will comprehend more about the love of Christ, too. We cannot guess what that understanding might mean for them—or what will result when they, in turn, release the love they've received.
So what Do we do when we Preach?
We comprehend and release
God's Astonishing love.
Have you ever thought about this? That this is what you're doing? That this is what you're a part of?
Do you ever ponder how holy your work is?
This week, let yourself consider the gift and privilege of being a preacher. You might pray Lectio Divina with the passage from Ephesians above or another one that suits you better:
- Let yourself feel what arises.
- Let yourself be surprised to find yourself on your knees, to weep holy tears, or simply "to look at the good God and let the good God look at you," as the old story goes.
But no matter what, give thanks. Give thanks that this is what you get to do.
And if there's anything you want to share, tell me. I'd be honored to read your story.
Certainly, I give thanks for you. I give thanks you said yes when asked to be a preacher, that you comprehend the love of Christ, and that you have the courage to release it.
Be Good News to Preach Good News,
P.S. Please pray for all the preachers who are attending or speaking at the Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, Texas, this week, including yours truly at the Backstory Preaching table in the Exhibition Hall!