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what is the hardest sermon you ever preached? – steve worsley

angry mob

Was it the sermon you did on Gay Marriage, knowing an ill-advised word could cause a church split? Was it the time you offended the creationists by not preaching their line? Did you get buried under the weight of Numbers or Romans or tied in knots explaining the ‘genocide’ of Joshua? Did you drown in Revelation, going chapter a week, only to find the ‘Tribulation’ lasts thirteen chapters?  Were you unstuck on Paul’s view of women? Was it tithing, veils, hell, or the age of Methuselah?

I don’t think it was any of those. I doubt you can even remember what the topic or passage was. What made it hard was those sets of disdainful eyes looking up at you. You would rather have been anywhere other than church that Sunday, or doing anything other than preaching. If only every conflict you faced in the church could be resolved by Sunday morning, but it can’t. And that day you had to get up and do your job knowing that some in the congregation were fuming. ‘Who does she think she is?’ ‘How can he even think to be up there preaching when he’s been so blatantly un-Christlike?’

It might have been easy to brush off that day, if none of it were true. But even in that semi-processed state you knew you hadn’t got things right. It was a lot to carry: the weight of those disdainful eyes and the internal weight of your own sin.

And yet, you had to get up and do your job. It would be petulant to say, ‘I don’t feel up to preaching today’. Or to feign a headache or stomach bug. And who would step in for you at the last minute anyway?

What does God say to you in those unworthy, unresolved moments?

He says,

Those Sundays matter more than anything. I know how hard it is. I know you felt like a fake. I know you just wanted it to be over. I know you wondered in that moment how you ever got to be a preacher and whether that sermon should be your last.

But that Sunday mattered to me. You put yourself through it for me and for the many who were unaware of that conflict who needed to hear from me that day. The call I put on your life to preach was tested and honed that day. You took the hits. But you didn’t fold.

The funny thing is, you thought there were empty chairs in the room that day, but they weren’t empty. The room was packed with the company of heaven. And it was no glib party they were having as they backed you, applauded you and urged you on, their Amens raising to heaven.

Thank you so much for preaching the hardest sermon you ever preached. It didn’t go unnoticed.

One Comment

  1. David Julian says:

    Great word Steve, it speaks to my heart!

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