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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Preaching While Distracted

OK, this was an unexpected experience. Yesterday morning some things happened right before the church service began that got me mad. One of the people involved will most likely read this and I hope I am forgiven for being so short-tempered and reactionary. I should not have gotten as mad as I did. I tried to keep it to myself, but I was seething.

I shouldn't have been, but I was.

So, worship began and I started thinking, "How can I pull myself together so I'll be ready to preach?" I began having some honest talk with God on the spot! As we sang the worship songs, I was trying in my heart to focus my mind on the words, but the anger was burning a little bit.

When that happens, it feels just like I have a heavy, iron helmet weighing on my brow. It's just sitting there not allowing me to do anything other than frown. So, there I was, the pastor, singing praise songs and trying to get into it and all the while boiling and burdened under the weight of (unnecessary) anger.

Then, it was time to stand up and preach. I got to the lectern, announced the scripture passage, and glanced at my manuscript. Something surreal happened. For one of the few times in my life, I experienced two realities at the same time.

I was a preacher tasked with bringing God's word to God's church, and I was truly able to give it my best shot. I certainly don't think anybody would mistake me for John Wesley or Billy Graham or Fred Craddock, but I thought the sermon wasn't half bad. More importantly, I felt God speaking through me and afterward, others said they felt that way too.

At the same time, I was a listener. It was not an out-of-body thing where I was in one of the seats hearing and watching the sermon. But, I was definitely listening as God spoke the words directly to my heart and specifically to my situation. God was convicting me of His truth and my own sin. Obviously, I had not written the sermon to myself originally. The message was composed earlier in the week, before the Sunday morning incident took place. But, God in His wisdom used those words to speak to me.

By the end of the worship time, my anger had been replaced with gratitude. I was thankful for God's mercy, grace, and wisdom. I was also grateful for God speaking to me in such a way that I cannot possibly doubt that it was anything other than God working through my fragile ego. I hope next time I won't get so easily distracted. It's kind of foolish. But, I am glad to know that God is leading our worship whether I am at my best, or not in such a good place.

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