It is at once gratifying and humbling, sometimes to the point of embarrassment, to listen to a member of my congregation assuage my concerns about a matter using the same principles I’ve been preaching all along. I mean, do I even listen to myself? Shouldn’t I have everything perfected before I preach this stuff?
Well, of course, we all must know that a preacher – just as a prophet, or evangelist, or anyone living into their calling – a preacher is compelled to speak, exhort, expound upon that which God impels us. The preacher studies and discerns, researches and meditates – in the listening spaces, in the context of the church family and larger community – and the message settles and presses and sometimes forces its way onto the page, out of the mouth . . . carried along on the breath of a prayer for ears to hear – for the congregation and for oneself. Because the message is always as much for me as it is for you.
So when a very dear friend of mine pulled me aside during coffee hour last week to share how she realized that in order to more effectively engage in the conversations we’re having right now, she needed to investigate some more – read what others are saying about the issues, consider them in light of the things I’ve been sharing, processing it with her husband – and that she is “getting it,” hearing and understanding my heart on the matter, as well . . .
As she described the work she was doing to reconcile her earlier perspective of scripture’s teaching with an understanding that has more facets, more lenses capable of a further expansive view – I knew I was on holy ground. Her words, our exchange, was a sacrament – God was present in that space-time.