Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Preacher, Not Preaching

It is Saturday evening.  I'm not preaching again this weekend.  It feels odd, not exactly like a vacation (which it is not) but more like my job description suddenly changed, or someone moved around the days of the week without telling me, or I have forgotten a large appointment in my weekly calendar.

The first time it felt odd was when the preaching schedule came out.  A whole month without preaching.  My knee jerked.  "What am I going to do?" was the first thought in my head.  Not that there isn't plenty to do, even without preaching, but I have grown to believe that preaching regularly sort of justifies my existence.  The reading and the studying and the thinking and the conversations all give shape to my week.  I end up seeing the world in a different way, bringing the scripture readings to the world and the people I know.

The second time it felt odd was on Wednesday, when I realized that I hadn't really studied the scriptures for a few days.  This should not be so, I thought; the discipline of scripture reading is not only for the sake of preaching.  But what should I study?

Why not the scripture readings for this week? I answered, after a short period of angst.  So there I was, at noon on Wednesday, sitting in the common area at our local mall, eating my tuna sandwich and reading the Beatitudes that I would not preach on, hearing the words in my mind, not just the familiar words of uncommon blessing, but also the words about the salt and the light and how our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, which sort of blows my mind, no matter how many times I read it.  I have a hard time quantifying righteousness, I realize.  I actually don't think you can measure righteousness.  I don't think you can measure grace either.  I just think this.  I wonder if I am right.

And now, here I am, on Saturday night.  I am not praying for the Holy Spirit to enliven the words I have written, and I am not wondering whether I should re-write a few of them.  I am not struggling for a little last-minute inspiration.  I am not wondering whether I missed the Spirit this week.

It feels different:  not good, not bad:  just different.

There are times when I wonder what it would be like to have a different weekly schedule, and a different Sunday discipline.  I wonder how it would feel to get up and turn on the radio, and open up the newspaper and fix a pot of coffee, to sit around in my bathrobe and fix scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls for my family.  Or, I wonder what it would be like to go the bookstore instead of the sanctuary on Sunday morning, to commune alone with books and other people and a gourmet coffee.  I don't say this with judgment, and not a wistfulness either.  It is not that I wish for anyone else's life.  I am just curious sometimes, about how it would feel to have a different rhythm, with no preaching.

Lex orandi, lex credendi -- as we pray, so we believe -- I learned this saying long ago in seminary, but I wonder if it applies to more than prayer, or if prayer is perhaps more expansive than I used to think.  How do the rhythms of my life define what I believe, who and what I trust, and what are my priorities?

All these questions I am considering in the darkness of a Saturday evening, when tomorrow I am not preaching.

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