Monday, July 18, 2011

Unexpected Company

Yesterday I preached at my field education placement church. As I made announcements before the service, I noticed a familiar face, but I couldn't quite place the face. During the greeting time/passing the peace the familiar face made his way to me. He asked, "So you're the student intern this summer?" I answered, "Yes I am." He replied, "Nice to meet you, I'm ___ _______." Immediately I realized that this was a pastor of one of the 10 largest UMC churches in the US, that I've participated in studies using his curricula in the past. He explained that he was on vacation and that he worshiped with this congregation when he was in the area. We exchanged pleasantries and then worship resumed.

"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’" Genesis 28:16

During the next few minutes, I felt my nerves start to work on me. How could I, a seminary student that has yet to take the required preaching course to graduate, offer a sermon that could be worth speaking to someone of his experience? After I allowed my mind to race a little bit, I realized the text I was preaching on: Jacob's encounter with God. I also remembered one of the thoughts I'd had during the week of preparation that made it into my sermon: "...we ought to be awed...when we encounter God breaking in to our reality."

My mind started to shift from the VIP in the second row to the fact that I was failing to be awed by the presence of God in worship because of this person's presence. I was allowing myself to be nervous about speaking to a congregation including him, instead of being nervous about the fact that I was speaking about God. I felt foolish, but also comforted. I feel the sermon went well, especially after I had a moment of conviction for myself.

I ought to be more awed by the time I spend with scripture. It's presence and words should be allowed to make me feel uncomfortable and inadequate. But I, like Jacob, can trust in God's promise to "be with" me. (Gen. 28: 15; Matthew 28: 20)