Sunday, March 15, 2009

Experience of Grace for the Day

Every so often I am privileged to preach from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. This morning was one such morning and I'd pored over my sermon for two weeks (you can see it on my sermon site, The Quiet Woman, if you care to)first trying to examine what it was that God was laying on my heart that needed to be said this particular morning in Lent. It evolved rather differently than other sermons of mine, because often I like to use the lectionary readings for the preaching text. Mainline churches typically use the revised common lectionary so it's pretty easy to research good commentary and interpretations of particular texts from a number of different sources.

This was different in that my pastor has been preaching a series on spiritual gifts and had left it wide open for today. The temptation was great to try to draw to an inside straight but I've only done that once before in such a situation with him and it was really dicey because his style and mine are so different. If memory serves, that sermon came off feeling contrived.

So I took on something that I'd been just burning to speak to-Lenten practices in our non-liturgical tradition and how we misunderstand them and, further, how they actually flow from practices common to Jesus and the disciples spiritual practices. Naturally Matthew 6 came to mind.

The great part of grace is when I've labored over the writing of it so much that when it comes time to preach it I feel I can deliver it totally under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Such a thing occurred today.

Our worship leader has introduced more contemporary music and, I must say, he's done itvery well indeed. But not everyone loves to rock a Sunday. This morning a lady hollered out at him to turn down the music-it was too loud! This was right after he'd finished up the first song and was launching into the second. It actually stopped him for a moment. After the song he took a few minutes to address the church and discuss the many, many, conversations he's had since joining us-everything from whether he should use the electric or acoustic guitar, how he should wear his shirt, even how long/short his hair should be. He went on to make the very true and gracious point that whatever he or anyone else does is unimportant; the true calling we have there on a Sunday morning is to point people to worship at God's feet. I'm not doing him justice for I have seldom heard such a grace-filled extemporaneous talk from someone who could have just as easily become very angry and let the woman's remarks interfere with the rest of the worship hour.

I guess I underestimate how much the spirit moves with us in worship. The congregation actually applauded him, and when I got up to preach, I went from my 7-page sermon and extemporized down to a 4-pager to bring us home on time and I was amazed how seamless it felt. People were reallywith both of us all the way and today, at least, I am sure God was using us to point people to God's throne. It's something I know we strive and pray for, and sometimes it really, really happens the way it's supposed to.

Thanks be to God!

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