Thursday, March 1, 2012

even if your voice shakes

Lent 1, Wednesday

Readings for today: Genesis 37-25-36, Psalm 49, 1 Corinthians 2:1-13, Mark 1:29-45.

These words of 1 Corinthians struck me tonight:
"And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom..." (vv. 3-4).

Since beginning my internship with the Episcopal Church, one of the most challenging and yet rewarding things for me has been preaching. It is scary to stand up in front of people and attempt to "break open the Word" (a common phrase in seminarian-speak). Seeing all those faces looking at me expectantly (or not looking, as the case may be) can be very intimidating. If I didn't have my sermon printed and placed in front of me, I'm not sure that I would be able to do it--I'd probably freeze up or pass out. Seriously.

The year that my family decided to home school (note that it was only a single year), we joined a 4-H club for home schoolers. My sister and I had prepared speeches for one of the meetings, complete with note cards in case we got nervous. When it came time for people to get up there, I didn't go up--I was terrified. My sister, 4 years younger, got up there and wowed everyone, but even my super-competitive nature was not enough to give me the courage to do it. I decided I would rather be embarrassed for wimping out than get up there and fail in front of everyone. I'll never forget how disappointed my parents were and how disappointed I was in myself.

For some reason, preaching is a totally different experience. Yes, I'm still terrified, and I know that I stumble over words and that there are much more qualified people out there who could do it more effectively. All I can do is try my best to be honest to Scripture and my own experience of God and hope that people are able to get something out of it. As a button I own states, "Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes." Please know that if I ever say something that is of value, it is only because the Spirit has interceded and helped you to hear what you needed to hear. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes when I get up there to preach, it's almost as if there's something magical going on--I get this energy and time seems to move in and out of existence. I'd like to think it's the Holy Spirit, but maybe I'm just narcissistic and enjoy the sound of my own voice (I have always enjoyed reading aloud). Regardless, somehow preaching is different for me than saying a speech. There is a sense of vulnerability when laying your struggles with the text before the people gathered. It's a great privilege, and a humbling experience.

All the same, it makes me feel better to know that even with all of his training and experience, Paul also felt inadequate at times.

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