I guess I have done my fair share of preaching for somebody as young as myself. This summer has been no exception. I have already preached twice with the next four weeks also filled with sermon preparation and leading worship. When providing pulpit supply, one does not have to be as concerned with what they will say because they will probably never see these people again and also because it is very difficult to come in and preach to a bunch of people that you don’t know and have no idea what kind of experiences they have been through. But when you preach week in and week out to a group, difficulty begins to arise. First, there is the temptation that you always have to one-up your ‘performance’ and thus are always straining yourself to do better each and every week. This is simply impossible to seek to out-do yourself on a weekly basis. Yes, we should try to improve but what criteria are we using to judge our sermons? The feedback of the congregation? Is that even a good judge?
However, I think the biggest hindrance for me in preparing sermons is myself. Yes, I want to preach the Word of God and be faithful to the biblical narrative but I also want people to know how smart I am, how well I prepared for the sermon. This is sad but I find it to be true more and more and it is something I wrestle with all the time. Probably, more often than not, my ego gets in the way of the Word of God that I am trying to point people to. This is such a change from the academic setting when we are always taking tests and writing papers in order to prove to our professors that we do know something, that we aren’t dumb. We are trying to impress our professors with our expertise on a certain topic, quoting numerous different theologians spread across the history of the Judeo-Christian faith. In the pulpit, however, we are not trying to prove any of this. We are witnesses to the Word of God, providing testimony to how God has acted in the past, how God is acting now, and how God will act in the future. When we try to do more than this, we are doing a disservice to the pastoral role we fill.