Two and a half decades into this pastor gig, you would think that by now I would not start fretting on Saturday night about all the things for Sunday. You would think by now, I would know how to manage both the expected and the unexpected of Sunday morning, that I could go out, stay up late, be a regular human being on Saturday night and not a pastor starting to think ahead. Alas, that is not the case.
I’m not preaching this week, and this morning after coffee I told my husband (who is preaching and who does not fret about these things) that I was really looking forward to a Saturday off when I wouldn’t worry and edit the sermon and make the list of all the things there are to put on a list on a Saturday when you’re a pastor. My husband looked at me and said, “You know, you don’t have to preach that often.” I hate it when he doesn’t say what I want him to say but instead says the thing I need to hear.
Perhaps it is my Enneagram 1 (the perfectionist) or my Myers-Brigg J (who loves structure and the ‘decided’ lifestyle) that starts up the worry wheel. Perhaps it is my sinful nature, not allowing room for the Holy Spirit on Saturday night and Sunday morning, the sin of relying on myself and not on God. Maybe its early-onset stage fright. Maybe it’s that I’m 25 years older than I was when I started all of this and my energy is different. Maybe it’s all of those things, or none of them.
A member of the choir sent me a note recently, saying that she loved the nuance of hearing the pulpit light click on before the sermon and click off after the sermon. I appreciate her noticing that, because clicking that little light feels enormous to me. I click it on, and a week’s or month’s worth of thought, study and prayer comes to life. I click it off, and for a day, I can rest and let go until it’s time to start again.
What I need to remember in all of this is that God is clicking on a different light. I cannot separate the thought, the study, the prayer, all that goes into a sermon from God. If my living is infused with the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the community of the Holy Spirit, then nothing that consciously or unconsciously goes into a sermon is apart from God. Why, then, do I not trust that?
It may have something to do with this: when the congregation looks to the pulpit, they see me, not God. They see me, with whom they have shared a cookie at coffee hour, with whom they have sat through meetings, whom they have seen at the grocery store in my grubbies. They see me with all my faults and failings and they love me (most of them) anyway. Why, then, do I not trust them?
I take preaching very seriously, and I work hard not to make it about me but about God and the call of Christ to be present in the world. I take seriously that people have given an hour or two of their morning to come to worship and I respect the gift of their time. I take seriously the privilege of speaking about God, and maybe even for God.
Perhaps, then, I need to take myself a little less seriously. I aspire to do that.
But not on Saturday night.