Why I Hate Preaching

6 08 2010

I hate preaching because it involves writing sermons which involves seeking the One higher than myself which I honestly don’t do extremely well.

There, I said it.

Sermon writing is hard because it puts me in such a vulnerable place that it’s beyond uncomfortable –  not solely concerning content, but presentation – it’s just plain hard, unnecessarily hard if you ask me because it implies none of me and all of God. And I’m not used to not putting myself in things. Or waiting. And writing a sermon requires waiting.   

I absolutely hate having to wait on God, more often than not, until the morning of, at some crazy hour like 3 or 4 am. Sitting at a desk. Until it’s finished. The thoughts and then the construction of these thoughts into a cohesive sermon.  

I hate that.

But maybe that’s my problem. All those “I’s”.

I’ve kind of made sermon writing and subsequent preaching about me. There goes that “I” again!

I’m so concerned with saving face, with producing such an amazing sermon sermon that I forget the spiritual practice and discipline it takes to hear from God. Since I don’t want to give a me-induced sermon, I need to get off of my schedule and get on God’s.

And learn that hearing from God is something I need to work on. And that I may need to change something in my day to day, like including time with God in a good portion of it, in order to hear from Him at some other point other than the morning of.

This leads me to the sad conclusion that perhaps my sermon writing could be indicative of something deeper, and more vulnerable than I want to admit.

Maybe my hatred of sermon writing rooted in fear of a late-message, is rooted in my inconsistent communication with God, study of Jesus’ life and legacy and room for the Holy Spirit to speak to me.

Maybe I don’t want to admit that God doesn’t wait until the last moment to speak, but that I wait until the last minute to put my preconceived notions, guard, over-active, wanna-be-super-creative mind down at the altar and slaughter it completely so that there is no trace of me in it. There is no me alive in my reception of the sermon. But me is sacrificed to God. This is what is required in sermon-preparation: slaughtering, slaughtering that God asks for.

Once I do what God has asked, no matter how hard it is for me, maybe I’ll be able to re-utter what He has said.

But that requires a ton of humility. I may have able half a ton right now, which isn’t enough. So “the-night-before-I-preach” moments of panic will have to do until I get into the rhythm of sacrifice and silence.

Sacrifice and silence.

For I don’t want this sermon to be about me; sacrifice and silence is what it will take to mediate to the people, something from God.

Until I preach out of the book of Tomi. Which will never happen.

As long as I call what I love to hate to do, preaching.

I hate to say it, but I think we preach exceptions, not rules.

12 07 2010

I hate to say it, but I think we preach exceptions, not rules.

Miracles seem common in the word-series called sermons because sermons are inspired from the words called the Bible. But I propose that they aren’t supposed to be. Miracles weren’t even that common when Jesus was doing them. They appear common because the Gospels follow Jesus. Or when Elijah or Elisha or Moses did them, even though they did a few as well, we call them the norm.

It may seem like they were, but they weren’t.

Sure, Jesus healed many people, but He didn’t physical heal thousands of people who came to Him. He healed a paralytic who came from the roof (Mark 2), a blind man from birth (John 9), a demoniac (Mark 5), a woman with extensive bleeding (Luke 8). He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11) but not others.

The greatness of His miracles enthrall us so much that we become encouraged and inspired to believe that miracles are easily accessible, that they are commonplace, that everyone gets one. But I don’t think we do.

Because miracles are what the Bible reports, we assume they are everyday occurrences.

But maybe the actual, physical miracle should not be the focus of the sermon. If we’re honest with ourselves, we hear one or two stories about someone who received a check in the mail, or were healed completely of cancer, or they got the full scholarship when they didn’t finish their application. Miracles do happen to thousands of people. But what about the billions of people who don’t see miracles?

I think it’s too easy for ministers who have hit the jackpot to claim that their life is common. It isn’t. It’s great for them but unlikely for others.

What do we do with that?

Entire ministries are built on this false concept of common miracles. Entire lives and faiths are built on this false concept of common miracles.

But people asked Jesus for miracles.

John 4:47-48 is hard to read. What is wrong with a man asking Jesus for healing for his son? Isn’t that what a believer in Christ should do? Aren’t we healed by His stripes?

Or are we misunderstanding this healing proclamation?

Jesus sounds exasperated at the fact that people need physical miracles and physical evidence to believe. Maybe there was a way to believe without a miracle. Maybe John 4 is showing that belief had a short-lifespan unless it was sustained by miracles.

Maybe John 4 is teaching Mark 2. The first thing when the paralytic is surprisingly lowered into Jesus’ presence is forgive him of his sins. Physical healing seems to be an afterthought. Or rather, it is to shut the scribes up who complain and question Jesus pardoning anyone’s sins.

Maybe our focus is too much on the physical and miracles.

Maybe miracles are not the first thing Jesus wants us to receive from Him, but forgiveness.  

Miracles are few and far between but they are not even primary but secondary to demonstrate Jesus’ power and divinity. But all we can see is what we don’t have, whether it’s good health, money, good kids, a job, perfect parents, or perfect grades. We pray harder for our final papers than for God’s forgiveness.

Maybe our priorities are wrong. Maybe the entire point is humility. And if we don’t get the healing we want or believe God has promised us, maybe we should re-evaluate what Jesus is really healing. And be content with that.

But it’s hard when we’re in pain.

But maybe Jesus is teaching the incredibly hard lesson that forgiveness from sin and embracing humility, even amidst pain and possibly physical death is greatest. I personally think that He’s still teaching me this. None of us has mastered this subject yet. We don’t mean to or want to, but we’re failing. It will probably take the rest of our lives to pass let alone completely and totally ace this.

When we shed all traces of humanity and finally cross-over into the presence of a God whose being begets perfect understanding, I think it’ll happen. And it will be commonplace.

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