Omnia mihi lingua graeca sunt
Yesterday was a milestone in the life of one man, and a millstone around the neck of another - me. As a church, we ordained a man into the ministry last night, concluding the service with the very moving laying on of hands.
That morning, he had delivered a sermon to our church on "walking worthy". It was well contructed, well rehearsed, well delivered, and well supported. He skillfully used media, both powerpoint and video. Though it was long, no one could say it wasn't effective in transmitting what was in the text. So in a seminary sense, it delivered.
But I never sensed what all effective sermons have - that lifting past skill, through delivery, and across the distance into people's hearts that characterizes all great sermons. I'm sitting here tonight trying to figure out why, because I love the man, and I'm in a role of a mentor to him as he sets out into ordained ministry.
It's bothered me ever since the sermon was over, but I attributed it to my critical bent, or perhaps my passion for incarnational preaching. My wife even asked me if I was a little insecure about it. I answered no.
Then last night, the charge to the candidate was given by a seminary professor I respect as a man of God and as a teacher. That same feeling came rising up. I found myself asking "Is this what preaching is or should be?"
When I followed him in giving the charge to the church, it was with one of the few episodes of nervousness I have ever had in the pulpit. It quickly passed as I got into the sermon, but it was there, and it bothered me that it was. So I've been reflecting on both sermons all day.
More than anything, when I preach, I want to connect the Word to the world - that is to people's lives. I want to be the guy that delivers biblical truth in a way that people feel the truth - that God is present, that He hears and sees how we live, and that He through His Word, can give direction, can give comfort, can deliver a peace that is beyond imagination, and that He does it out of His love.
I felt very alone in that yesterday.
Each preacher was very logical, point by point in his approach. A person with any Bible knowledge at all could have outlined where they were heading after the first point.
Each trotted out their language tools and pointed out that even though our English Bibles said that the word was "____" , in the GK it was the word _____ which could also mean ____. That always bothers me, because I used to be the guy in the pew who loved God and read his Bible, but felt inferior when the preacher would trot out the original language. I now have those tools, but very, very rarely use them for that reason and one more. By doing that, I have the feeling that people who aren't very far along in their walk or are just investigating the faith have one more reason to doubt the words they see before them on their translation's page.
But I used to be those guys, before I fell in love with my people.
Now instead of preaching to them, I try to preach with them, or from among them, giving them "hooks" to tie onto, anchors to hold onto, and "canvas" that through the Spirit's force can move them farther along. It's Truth, expressed in a way that speaks into their context, that feels less like a principal's lecture and more like a Father's instruction.
My millstone is that what I do isn't what will get me acclaim, or a better placement, or a position that would allow me to influence others to look at preaching in this way. And for the life of me, I cannot do anything else.
I just don't get it. Just as you, unless you read Latin, don't get the title of this blog entry, which is "It's all Greek To Me." But I'm committing myself to become even better at this "foolishness called preaching" and make sure every sermon has everything I can do to bridge the gap into it.
Pray for me.