NSo this morning I got the call that our Pastor was sick. He'd come down with some sort of bug or possibly some kind of food poisoning or something and had been sick for hours. He was in no condition to lead the services and our usual backup (the organist of our church, a retired minister) was out of town, so it was down to me. Now, while I'm comfortable preaching, I usually rely on at least a few days of preparation and I usually know that I'm on well in advance of the actual occasion. This was the first time I'd ever been asked to preach with such short notice so I was immediately struck with a healthy dose of anxiety. I quickly drove to the church, touched base with some of our worship staff and began to quickly put together a message.
Besides the fact that I only had about an hour's notice to lead the service, besides the fact that we had a baptism scheduled (which we postponed due to my lack of qualification), and besides the fact that I was running on little sleep because of a bonfire I had at my house with some of my students last night, perhaps the most ironic source of discomfort was the fact that today was Memorial Day Sunday. Now it isn't that I have anything against Memorial Day. It's just that I do have something against "America worship" and patriotism taking precedence in the church and especially in a worship service to God. I don't understand why hymns to a country or to a flag should have any place in a church that's dedicated to the anticipation and implementation of God's borderless and flag-less reign. I typically try to avoid church altogether around patriotic holidays. I find patriotism to be a great distraction from the true allegiance of the church to God. So it was truly ironic that today was the day I was asked not only to be there but to preach God's Word amidst such distraction.
Nevertheless I prepared my sermon on Colossians 3:12-17. I offered my outcomes to God and spoke from my heart. I shared some fresh thoughts and even got to quote two authors I am currently reading--Jurgen Moltmann and N.T. Wright--indeed, two of my very favorites. After two services, I was officially pooped from the inside out and I had officially survived my first last-minute-sermon.
The point of my message and indeed the point of preaching in the first place is Christ and the growth and maturation of people in their relationship with God. I pray that even though way too much of my personal focus was on myself, rather than on the point of my being there in the first place, God used the things that were said to draw people to God--to greater intimacy with and commitment to Christ.