07 April 2010

The Rabbi Made Me Do It

Last Thursday I went out to lunch with my colleagues: the Presbyterian pastor (the nice one), Episcopalian rector, and the Rabbi. As we walked down the street to the restaurant the Rabbi casually said: "So are you going to preach on something big on Easter Sunday, making any big stances?" In a hushed and slow tone I responded, "wwwwweeeellll I am completing my sermon series on renewal." He replied, "Oh great then this will be your apotheosis, the culminating sermon." Again in a hushed and slow tone I responded "ssssssuuuurrrrreee."

Being Thursday I had pretty much finished my sermon. It was a nice sermon, a good Easter sermon - nothing great, no great stands, nothing out of the ordinary. But after lunch I quickly scrapped my sermon and started over from square one. Easter - the biggest day of the year, an unusual day for preaching, an expectant crowd. Is it a day to play it safe? No.

I wrestled with ideas, possibilities, and directives. Then the sermon emerged and I wrote like mad Thursday night after the service, all day Friday, a good portion of Saturday while watching the WVU vs Duke game, and early on Sunday morning. The result? Validation.

I have never poured myself into a sermon like that before. I received the most positive response to a sermon in my life. I can safely say every other Easter sermon I preached was a safe sermon. Usually after Easter I am wiped out, no energy or stamina for the week after. Usually I take a week's vacation just to recover. Granted I was tired after this Easter but not wiped out. In fact I felt surprisingly refreshed, I even woke up at 6am on Easter Monday morning (which is a school holiday here in New Orleans!) The unexpected experience of energy was a result of the validation I experienced as a preacher. The folk appreciated the work I did and the content I offered.

Taking chances in ministry are not, on the whole, looked highly upon. But I think the time for playing it safe are over, we need to take broader and deeper chances as preachers. It is risky, sure but I think there are expectant ears awaiting.

Thanks to the Rabbi!

1 comment:

Michele said...

I've grown used to facebook, am wishing you had a "like" button on your blog. Oh, well, guess I have to take the plunge and actually comment. You deserve every drop of validation you received. It was a masterpiece of a sermon. I am very glad you are our pastor, and feel quite certain I'm not alone. Cheers!