Friday, May 13, 2011

Sit Down! And Shut Up?

One of my seminary professors told a story in class about a student who was invited to preach in a church in which the tradition was for the congregation to be more vocal in its responses than the type of reaction to which the young preacher was accustomed.

Not too far into his sermon a lady jumped up and shouted, “Sit down and shut up—you done spoke the truth!”

“And so,” our professor said, “he did.”

I have been trying lately to make some changes in my preaching, one of which is to be less tied to the lectern (the preacher’s security blanket) and to written notes (the preacher’s other security blanket). So, I’ve been moving around the pulpit area a bit more.

I’ve seen preachers move around the pulpit area to excess; I’ve even seen them leave the pulpit area and run up and down the aisles slapping deacons on the knee.

I don’t anticipate going that far.

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, about three-fourths of the way through my sermon, I felt a tremendous urge to sit down. So I walked over to one of the pulpit chairs and had a seat.

Why? Because I suddenly felt very, very tired.

What made me so tired?

Was it the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical toll of preaching my heart out not just that morning but for the past thirty-five years?

Was it the frustration and anxiety that often accompany my wondering if anyone is really listening?

Was it an impulse, in the middle of all that activity, to rest in the Lord?

By the way, I sat down but I didn’t shut up. I kept talking while seated and in a minute I got back up and kept talking.

I do hope and pray, though, that I was—that I am—speaking the truth.