The worst part of worship prep for me is the sermon title. Oh how I hate having to commit to a topic by Wednesday, when the sermon itself will not be preached until Sunday. So much can happen in between! And no matter how much preparation and research I put in, there is always something left to write early Sunday morning. Always. I struggle to feel comfortable with that living aspect to preaching, because I honestly think it's the Spirit's way of keeping me out of the way of the message. But I'd really like to tie everything up nicely in each sermon, give it a really fabulous ending and then receive high-fives from everyone in the receiving line at the back of the sanctuary. Unfortunately, it never works that way.
Two weeks ago I preached a sermon that was well on its way to being finished early on Saturday night. It was on the Transfiguration from Luke 9. I had done some language work on it, read a few commentaries, and it was 3/4 done. And then, it was as if God turned out the light and said, "it's finished. Go to bed." So I did. The next morning, the anxiety to work out a good ending never came, so I went to church with my 3/4 completed sermon. I got up to preach, knowing full well that I had no ending, but I was still not bothered.
When the black type ran out and the blank page took over, the words from Luke 9:35 rang out as if they were being spoken aloud in the sanctuary: 'This is my Son, my Chosen One, Listen to Him." So simple, yet so clear. It was as if the voice spoke to us all, coming from that powerful event two thousand years ago to the present. Jesus spoke of love and justice and did it in a powerful and subversive way. "Listen to him," the voice said.
Silly, silly preacher woman. Every week, I, like poor Peter on that mountaintop, have hoped to build some sort of permanent dwelling for the prophets of God with my words. Some sort of lasting tribute in each sermon with perfectly crafted sentences and sound theology. But I, like Peter, have been missing the point. We can't contain the glory of the Lord in a dwelling place, a Temple, or an award winning sermon. The words worth repeating have already been written. And God has commanded us through scripture once again to take heed.