I’ve been doing a fair amount of guest preaching lately. It’s been such a joy, even though it adds to the complexity of an already full calendar. Working, keeping up with my part of the household chores, internship hours take up a lot of time and energy. Finding some down time (sabbath) and getting enough sleep can be tricky on a good week. Toss in sermon prep and writing, plus the travel time to and from the church on a CPE Sunday… I feel a bit like Prince Humperdinck. I’m swamped!
I write all that, not as an entry in the Busyness Olympics, but to remind myself exactly WHY it has been so meaningful to hear words of encouragement on those crazy busy Sundays.
When I do get the space to sit and read and write, I am trusting God to give me the words that the people gathered in that sanctuary are meant to hear. When I put on my preaching shoes and step up into the pulpit, I am trusting God for the energy to deliver those words with passion and care. It’s a vulnerable place to be, especially when I’m just “visiting” and don’t have any history with a congregation.
It has been so nice to get some real feedback from people… the sort that goes beyond the “nice sermon” or “good job” handshake. Giving back a précis statement that was a clearer summary than I could ever have written. Sharing a story that an illustration brought to mind. Asking if I might share the manuscript by email to pass along to a friend. It’s not the sort of thing my homiletics prof would offer, but a personal connection happened.
The people I really like to hear from, though, are the retired pastors in the congregations. They don’t hesitate to call you on a false note or poor exegesis. But you can also trust they really mean it when encourage you and tell you what you got right. Because they know that feeling of powerlessness that a preacher has to embrace as a means of grace, so that the power of the preaching moment comes from the Holy Spirit.
So if you hear a good sermon, please let your preacher (regular or guest) know, and tell them what made it good for you that day. It might just be the thing that makes it possible for her to tackle the next week’s passage with joy.
And if you are a preacher (retired, newbie or anywhere in between) that goes double.