I pour my soul into my sermons. I use energy, passion, and exuberance to preach. By the time Sunday morning comes, I am chomping at the bit to deliver my message.
When I go over my message on Saturday, I imagine the response I’ll get. People laugh at my jokes. They listen attentively, eyes on me. At the end, when the point comes home, some cry, some fall to their knees and pray, crying out to God for salvation and the work of the Spirit in them. Lives are changed. People hug and support one another. People agree to go witness all afternoon. People renounce their materialism, and although they were going to go to Wal-Mart to stock up on more capitalistic abundance, they instead donate to the poor. I mean, things happen when I preach.
In my dreams.
The reality is that I get to church and everyone arrives late, half-asleep. By the time service is ready to begin; only about 20 people have shown up. Empty chairs outnumber the filled ones. I then notice the individuals who aren’t there. Why aren’t they here? Then I remember certain incidents throughout the week or in last week’s sermon, ope, yup, that’s why they aren’t here. Then I analyze everything I’ve said and done all week to figure out what I did to tick off the other people who aren’t there. By that time, my mind is gone and depression seeps in.
By the time I begin preaching, I’m still racking my brain to figure out why so-and-so isn’t there and what guilt-ridden excuse conversations I’ll again have with them this week. I start the message distracted and feeling down. I repeat my opening point about fifteen times before I gain momentum and energy back. My first joke doesn’t get a laugh. My first illustration passes with no nodding awareness that any words came out of my mouth. My energy amps up despite every effort by others to suck it out.
Heads drop. Eyes wander. People get up to go to the bathroom while every head turns to follow them out the door. Seemingly anything is more interesting than listening to me. I carry on, trying my best to maintain the energy that was so easy to find on Saturday in my office alone with my imaginary crowd working together with me. My sermon ends as powerfully as possible. I pray. We sing. People get up and shuffle out the door. A couple walk by and says “nice sermon” just like they do every week. That one guy comes up and lets me know I accidently said James instead of John and that pluperfect of that verb was incorrect. My kids hang on me because they want to go home.
Sunday afternoon is filled with regret. Why am I doing this? How could I screw up that message so bad? It worked so well yesterday. Then I go on thinking about who wasn’t there and why, did they send an email, text, voicemail? I check. Nothing.
No repenting. No crying. No conversion, no giving to the poor. No hugs and support.
Nothing followed by nothing.
And then next Sunday comes.
Nothing. Nothing except wondering why those people were gone. What did I do wrong now? How come nothing works? Good Lord, how much longer do I have to do this? I know, Moses did it for 40 years, but he at least did miracles and got to judge people who disrespected him. But, yeah, I know, 40 years. I’ve hardly done anything in comparison. Plus, who am I to compare myself with Moses? Moses had a direct divine call spelled out to him at the beginning; I should probably be selling insurance.
Just once. Just once I’d like to leave church edified.
Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.