One of the hard bits of training to be a Local Preacher is the sinking, swallowing all-consuming panic when on a Saturday night you still have no idea how your sermon ends. All inspiration is lacking, you feel incapable of delivering sound exegesis let alone a prophetic word. You just have no idea what to say.
One of the best bits of training to be a local preacher (especially a young one, with friends on the other end of MSN/facebook chat/skype etc) is that even when you feel overwhelmed and cut off you have friends out therefore you. Twice now good friends, best friends, walking the same path as me, have lifted me out of an abyss and given me inspiration, a seed of an idea, more often than not whole paragraphs that then form my sermon. It really is amazing to know such fabulous people and utterly wonderful to be loved by them.
Now I can add another privilege to this list. Being there for a friend when they are struggling. A few helpful words, a bit of encouragement, a teasing of an already existent thought; there was no need to provide extensive ideas or wording, just a simple “try this, and develop that” and whhoooosh there it was. A genuinely good sermon, which – so I hear – was well received by the congregation. It was nice that I could help be a part of a creative process that I sometimes struggle with.
But it was also nice that I knew what this friend was going to deliver in their act of worship this morning, and I was conscious of it during the service I was part of. There were some great points to the sermon I heard; a good reminder of where the road to Jerusalem ultimately took Jesus, how it was an unexpected road to his followers, how he could have taken other roads; been a zealot, raised an army, come in glory not humility, but instead too the road to the cross, for such is the way of God. There was a fantastic nugget about the Suffering Servant buried away and barely detectable, and I appreciated both of those. Yet at the same time, my mind drifted to the sermon being preached elsewhere; a reflection on the knots that need untying, on the nots we put before Jesus (not me, not now, not this way etc etc) and on the cost of laying down our coats at the feet of the King who comes on a donkey.
I know which sermon will stick with me longer, which one I will be meditating on over this Holy Week; not the one I heard, but the one that I was allowed to be privy too by my friend. In that was inspiration and prophecy, the still small voice of God delivered by a human servant.
I would have expected that this post be about the donkey, or the palms, or the hosannas. Maybe I should be spending more time on whether the “Hosanna” crowd were the same lot as the “crucify” crowd (personally I side with Barclay; they could well not be). That would make sense for this important date in the liturgical calendar. No doubt that will be the case next year.
But as I go into Holy Week my thoughts are with the colt or the cloaks but with those whom I travel through this time; those who are far from me but whom are in the same pilgrim group as me and I give thanks for the bond we have.