From the Rev: Not My Forte
This past weekend, I had the awesome privilege and weighty task of preaching on Ephesians 4:1-16 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church. The church has a Saturday night Word & Table service, and two morning service times on Sunday — one traditional and one “convergent” or modern service. Friend and mentor, Pastor Mike Anderson, asked me, “How did it go?” I simply responded,
It’s not my forte!
But, perhaps, put a different way — sermon prep and delivery just hasn’t been part of my routine, rhythm and experience as a pastor. I have in my years away from seminary and some pulpit-filling during seminary preached only a handful of times on a Sunday morning or in a special service. My work in hospice chaplaincy and pastoral care staff has not leant itself to preaching very much outside of providing a funeral service.
Ask me to officiate a funeral service? That’s a different story. I have done a upwards of 50 to 60 funerals and memorial services and that’s a more comfortable space. The orientation and direction of the funeral, though, is vastly different from the church worship service. And, when something isn’t in the normal rhythm of your weekly work, it can take more energy to devote the time and attention and recover old tools and techniques for preparing.
But certainly, being supported by Cherry Creek in my work with Soccer Chaplains United, it was a privilege to “give back” to the church in a tangible way. The weighty task , comes from knowing the way in which the church holds a high regard for scripture and the handling of it. Many times, Pastor Brad Strait has shared that the place of the Bible is strategic for the one preaching.
The Bible is placed here in the middle of the church at the very front, so that every time a pastor preaches, he must preach over it and be reminded of the authority of the Word of God and our responsibility to it.
The weight of responsibility is helpful for me as a chaplain because it reminds me of the responsibility that I have (albeit, differently) in the call and task that I have currently to serve as chaplain to those in soccer. Whether working with the Colorado Rapids, developing other chaplains, or struggling with the administration of a small non-profit organization the call that has been placed on my life comes with a tremendous responsibility. And while “success” is not necessarily a kingdom metric — faithfulness and obedience are.
I also found it curious (although, pointed out by my wife) that the text and eventual sermon was about being part of the Body of Christ. A fitting matter since most of the people that I serve are disconnected (for one reason or another) from the church and from the Body, let alone authentic community. The Ephesians 4:1-16 passage that Brad Strait asked me to preach on, will certainly have application and usefulness beyond Saturday night/Sunday morning’s time. Even for my own reflection and spiritual growth.
I also found very encouraging, Brad’s wisdom to me. In the weeks leading up to the sermon, sensing my nervousness, he shared,
When you don’t preach much, the temptation is that you want to hit a home run. Don’t give into that temptation…it’s not about you.
And this is true, my friends, it’s not about me. And for every “good job” or “I really liked you message/speech/sermon,” it’s a work of humility to give that away — we ought to see people transformed and formed by God’s Word, not our receiving of accolade or praise. And that transforming work is not always easy, comfortable, or pain free. Or, we might say,
It’s not our forte!
Rev Brad Kenney