Sunday, February 24, 2008

Moving from "Thorns to Thanks"

After a scary moment yesterday morning in which my computer had an “attitude problem” and shut down unexpectedly, I was glad it was short-lived and got over it a couple hours later. Clearly it is never good to lose work or have a computer crash, but as I was to preach this morning and my sermon was saved on it, it seemed only all the more important. Fortunately, I lost minimal work and was able to finish my work on the plane/train back to Chicago.

This sermon was one of “those” sermons that I struggled with. Perhaps because it is such a “touchy” topic that I think has to be approached with a gentle yet persistent spirit. “Thorns to Thanks” was the title I was given from our sermon series… so I was preaching on Paul’s thorn and his ability to not just be thankful- but to BOAST of the thorns of his life.

After being unsettled with this sermon and continuing to make changes to it into the night (and even a few this morning), I was a bit uneasy with it until I was standing to preach it. Thankfully, as I stood and prayed to share the message I had prepared, I finally found peace with it, and felt it went okay. Thanks be to God!

As a student, it is days like this that I am thankful for affirmations of my own uncertainties. As there were a lot of guests in the early service this week, I made my way around to greet a few of them, and was surprised to discover that a great deal of our visitors were clergy from out of town! None of them were even together; it just happened to be coincidental that they came on the same morning. I sure am glad I did not know this before I stood up to preach- I’m sure knowing that would only have made me more nervous in my inexperience!

The good news of this is that I had a chance to speak with a few of them and hear their stories and share a bit about what seminary looks like here in Chicago. One man in particular was really surprised to learn that I was an intern/seminarian, that he wouldn’t have guessed it since I seemed so natural and comfortable giving the sermon. While I wouldn’t agree with that, I am honored to receive such a compliment from a retired clergyperson who has been in ministry for 50 years!

I know that I have a lot of things to continue working on, and am a long way from where I want to be as a preacher, teacher, pastor or student, among other things. But today, it is good to hear positive affirmations from people like him, who went on to (unknowingly) talk positively about me behind my back to my site committee chair, of all people. As I am often guilty of being my own worst critic, it is good to be reminded that it isn’t always necessary, because I’m not the one in charge. God has taken over and as I make room for movement of the Spirit, things beyond my own control are said and done for the glory of the Kingdom.

As I remember this and move into writing a short homily for a child’s funeral (a mock-assignment for a class), I am thankful. I am thankful that just as I preached about today, my weakness and vulnerability make me stronger in Christ. Today, that struggle or weakness was in choosing words and ways of relating God’s important message to God’s people who come to hear it. After re-working this sermon several times only to preach something different when I stood up anyway, I am thankful that my own hesitation was able to serve as a vessel of invitation for God to come and take over. I pray this kind of weakness is one that will never move away from me.

1 comment:

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

Preach it girl. I am proud of you.