Monday, February 08, 2010

Preaching Ahead of Where We Are

Many thanks for all the support and encouragement yesterday!

Last week a friend and I were talking at seminary about our preaching. She acknowledged feeling as if she knows nothing and has no idea what to say ~ feeling like something of a fraud. (She's a terrific preacher, by the way.)

"How do you think I feel?" I asked.

"I think we have to preach ahead of where we are," I concluded.

And I've been thinking about that a lot. How we feel is one thing. Our faith is another. It's nice when they merge, but the reality of being grown-up is that often they do not. And so we preach for others out of the hope that one day they will again.

The conclusion of yesterday's sermon, which was about all those fish and how Jesus out of abundance invites us to share the same:

Do we know when we’re being interrupted by an invitation from God?

When abundance is plopped right down in front of us?

When our God of hope invites us to fish in deeper waters?

Abundance as a gift and an invitation – do we recognize it?

It might look very ordinary

We do not expect Jesus to appear in those mundane moments when we are at our most exhausted and feeling the futility of our efforts.

We are blind to the abundance that lies before us when we are worn down by life’s cares and challenges

It’s likely to be something we resist:

Our to-do lists are long enough, and as long as we wade in the shallows, we have some hope of accomplishing everything on them

Our plans are complicated, and we already know where we need to go and whom we need to call before the end of the day

To be honest, when all is said and done,

We often find it difficult to imagine that Jesus is calling us to anything

And yet there he is, standing on the shore – or in the office, or in the kitchen, or in the classroom, or anywhere else we do not expect him to be, and what he longs for is to give to us extravagantly, so that we may go and do likewise:

Put out into the deep water and let your nets down for a catch.

Welcome the interruptions,

pay attention to the one who is paying attention to you,

let him fill you with a sense of wonder and hope in place of your disappointments

and put out into the deep water and let your nets down.

(Image: Eric de Saussure, Peter's Catch of Fish, 1968.)


karen gerstenberger said...

I need this; thank you for posting it! I sometimes feel like a fraud myself, and you are helping me to see that 1) I'm not alone - thank you again! and 2) it's part of the process of being human.
Oh my.

Mompriest said...

Lovely. It takes awhile for our voice and our vocation to feel like its organic and natural and to trust that we are not "frauds." But it happens.

artandsoul said...

I have often felt this is the exact same way to mother a child.

It is not just out of my knowledge and my experience. I also mother out of hope.

When my children were, at various times, plagued by the darkness of addiction and there were parts of me that wanted to not only stay in the shallows but run like hell from the water itself, I know that my calling was to go into the deep waters.

There is abundant faith and hope in your words. Thank you.

Gannet Girl said...

That's so interesting, A&S. When I was going through my (very long) discernment process for seminary, I concluded at one point that being a pastor was just like and would draw upon the same skills I had in being a mother.

Imagine how struck I then was by the thought of its being a calling from which women had been excluded for so long!

artandsoul said...

GG - I am struck by that over and over again myself. I'm Catholic, so I get the chance to sit with this a lot.

I continue to (try to) follow the example of Mary, who watched her son, who watched the events of Passion Week, who stood at the foot of the cross and never took her eyes from Him.

And I see that as a huge part of my calling. The sitting, the watching. And even when I wrestle with it - the silence.

For those of you women who are preaching and who are pastors I bless you and thank you and keep you in my prayers.

Your voice is, in so many ways, one that needs to be heard. So I thank you for using it!

Karen said...

I love your words and this whole discussion in the comments. So many wise women to learn from. I like the notion of preaching ahead of where we are, but also feel false. I try to keep my expression real, but find it also keeps it earthbound and depressing. Finding that mix of real feelings, but heavenly hope, is the key. Glad to hear others struggle with the same.

Gannet Girl said...

Last night after a church meeting I had a conversation with a woman whose husband has been out of work for a year. She is a stunningly beautiful, gracious, and upbeat woman whose facade completely conceals the 24/7 stress of her current life. We talked about that part, too, and I thought to myself: Here is someone else preaching ahead of where she is, simply by her very being. Somehow she is sharing her gifts of faith and hope even when she is feeling completely battered and beaten down.

It is really, difficult, isn't it, Karen (both Karens), to be genuine when genuine entails such a complex mix of realities?

Gannet Girl said...

A&S, you are giving me some ideas for a post on spiritual fathering and mothering. I think about it quite a bit, since both of my spiritual directors have been Catholic priests and thereby go formally by the title of Father. Although I call them by their first names, I definitely think of one, who is my own father's age, as my spiritual father, and the other, who is my age, as a wise spiritual brother. There are definite psychological (as well as other) reasons, mostly having to do with having grown up without a mother, why I have ended up with male spiritual directors, and yet what am I becoming myself? Such interesting paths of questions.

Stratoz said...

Oh my the man of hope is smiling here in PA... you used the word, hope, four times in one post!!!!!


karen gerstenberger said...

I think Richard Rohr calls it "liminal space," that place on the threshold, neither fully in one place nor another. Maybe we spend most of our lives like this...because everything changes all the time. Just when I think I have some illumination, I seem to fall through the floor. I'm starting to laugh at myself more - when I'm not crying!