It happens to every pastor. The sermon we feel was a bomb. We labor over it, rehash it, reform it, slash sections, add others, practice and still, when we get up there to share these thoughts and insights on The Word, we walk away and believe we have bombed it.
Does it matter? I mean, really, if we trust in God and the Holy Spirit, if this is the Word being preached on then surely the Holy Spirit will do the translation and I don’t need to worry about the quality of my sermon. Except it does matter and I do care about the quality.
Believers in Christ are both bound and set free in Christ. When we were set free by his death and resurrection, we were bound to him in the very same move. And that binding has this odd effect where we desire to give back the very best in return. We don’t do this because we have to, but because we want to. It is the reason we say ‘I love you’ in return to someone else saying it- we want to show them we hear and recieve their gift of love and return it as well. Now, if I am worrying over a sermon because I believe I have to do it, it is worthless. But I do it for other reasons.
- I am called. I gave over and surrendered my life to service to others 12 years ago as I began working on my undergraduate degree so that I could attend seminary. I am not ordained yet, but that is a worldly recognition of this call and surrender that actually happened years ago. In the same way I breath out after I breath in, I am called to care for the work I do for God and God’s people. Not because I have to, but because I can do no other. It is simply IN me to do this. I heard this call to do this, so I want to do it.
- I want to do it well. My offering quality matters to me. It doesn’t matter as much to God. God loves me and loves that I make offering to God. But the quality matters to me and God does want me to care about the quality because that is what loving parents do, they teach their children to care about the quality of what they endeavor to do. It feeds our soul to do something well or to use our gifts to the limits of our ability. I want to show my love and the importance of my relationship with God and God’s people by doing something with my whole heart. For me, that means taking time to craft a “word of art” sermon because I can. I know I can- and that is the difference. I want to make an offering that is the best of what I have to give.
I don’t do this to compare myself to others. God is not comparing my offering to another of God’s children. God is looking at my offering alone. I compare this to me, and when I have better to give, I feel like I cheated God, which in turn cheats me and God’s people. The quality matters outside of comparison.
I don’t believe my quality somehow equates to God’s quality and movement among us. I trust that even my best sermons are interpreted by The Spirit for every heart- including mine. It isn’t that I believe the better work I do the less the Spirit has to work. I am a perfectly imperfect person. I need the Holy Spirit working overtime for me on every sermon.
I know God is doing amazing things. I know I can get up there and ruin every sermon. But it matters because there are also people there who have never heard God’s Word and the Holy Spirit moves through us, among us and in our words and actions. So my sermon and the way I work in the world with others is part of that. I am driven to a well crafted sermon because I know God has entrusted this role to me, to do it as well as I can. I am not the first or last pastor to bomb a sermon or several in a row. God will surely send another with words that these folks need to hear if I do not trust and follow the lead of The Spirit. But because I care and because I love the hearts in those pews that I do not even know, what I offer to them matters to me. God who loves little old imperfect me inspires me to try a little more, to work a little harder and give a little more- it is the very least I can do considering God gave me eternity.
I don’t know why Christ called the disciples or even the Priests of the Isrealites when God can do the work alone- but I believe it is because God wants us IN the relationship, all the way, giving our best and contributing because those are the very best relationships. I promised God to do that, to give my best for God and the world and when I don’t, I get a little bummed. I get humbled. I get reminded that God is gracious and will still accept my pile of rocks as valuable gemstones. So I cry a little, ponder the sackcloth and ashes and then get up, pick up my Bible and start again. Offering my confession to you and God that I can do better and I want to. And then God pats me on the head and says, “dear Daughter, dust off your knees, let’s try again.” Amen.