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Location: Charles City, Virginia, United States

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stoop to my Weakness, Mighty as Thou Art

Note to preachers: remember which pocket your sermon notes are in, and take them out before you start your sermon.
Yesterday morning I was in the pulpit, plowing ahead, midway through the first point of a 3-point sermon, when i realized: 1)that my notes were still in my pocket, and 2)that i didn't know which pocket: pants left front, pants right front, left rear, right rear, shirt front, jacket side, jacket inside... I didn't want to break the flow of things by stopping, fumbling around in multiple pockets, and then pulling out my crumpled notes, so i just went on ahead from memory.
On the downside, this probably made the sermon a little longer, and less "tight" than it would have otherwise been, since i had to pause at times and remember what else i wanted to say, but on the upside, i was able to keep eye contact with the congregation the whole time, instead of staring down at a manuscript. That felt right: it felt more like a conversation(albeit a one-sided conversation) than like a speech.

The internship at Trinity has been going well, on the whole: the pastors are working to make it an educational and useful time for me, and are giving me plenty of different opportunities to observe and take part in the day-to-day work of the church. I've been stretched, for sure: I've found myself leading a worship service with nursing home patients who gave no sign that they could actually hear me; composing prayers for various needs in the church and in the world (what exactly does one pray for the leaders of North Korea? That they would have a change of heart? That they would have heart attacks?); and playing the role of the Starfish in a children's skit (my long-suffering wife graciously agreed to play the Oyster). I've also been able to do lots of sitting and observing: watching the elders and pastors and behind-the-scenes folks as they pour their time and energy and emotional resources into the people of the church and the community--a task that comes with at least as many defeats and dead-ends as it does with victories.

It's been frustrating, at times, too: the part-time nature of the internship means that i'm still working at other jobs, and so my attention and energy are splintered in a dozen different directions. If my future includes work as a "part-time pastor," I'm going to need to learn from this summer's experiences in order to avoid going nuts.

As i walked up to the front of the church yesterday morning, to begin the service, the organist was playing the hymn, "Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart." I remembered the line, "stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art," and the thought flashed through my mind that it would make a pretty good prayer for me during this internship. I'm weak in just about any way you could name, and so it makes no sense for me to rely solely on my own talent or wit or patience.
With the living God providing the strength, though, good things can happen.
Even when i lose my notes.

5 Comments:

said...

So, on that praying for other leaders. It's come up in the 1. Timothy Bible study, and as we've talked about praying for our leaders. Apparently, it's not ok to say, "I wish he had a brain" but it's ok to say, "I pray for wisdom" without adding, "because he has none now."

This certainly is an issue I've been struggling with...

12:03 PM  
said...

Justin,

Though you have on several occassions come to me for wisdom or advice because of my (supposed) maturity gained simply through living more years than you have, you need to know that I, more often than you know, have come to look to you as an example for my life. Your "Stoop to my Weakness..." essay perfectly models why I do that.

I have every confidence that you will make an excellent pastor (or church officer of any stripe). You have helped me on innumerable occassions with your attitudes of calmness, charity, self-deprecation, and humility in the face of the various sturm und drang in our life as seminarians at WTS.

And I for one would rather sit and listen to you just talk rather than "speak" any time.

9:25 AM  
said...

Dude, did you just write "sturm und drang"?

12:59 PM  
said...

i heart my husband

2:27 PM  
said...

Keep up the good work » » »

2:06 PM  

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