Today's Reading: Exodus 4-6
Today is Sunday.
Today is the day when, across our nation, many men and some women will climb to the pulpit to deliver a sermon; a word from God.
Being a preacher by calling, I can tell you this is a wonderful, mysterious vocation. All week long, we are in the Word of God studying, pondering, praying and interacting with the Creator of the universe. Mysteries are revealed. Truths are imparted. Exhortations are heard.
But as we climb to the pulpit on Sunday morning, the ecstasy of the week can sometimes dwindle with every step. We turn to face our beloved congregations, we begin to open our mouths and we, like Moses, have a gut-wrenching fear.
"What if they will not believe me, or listen to what I say? For they may say, 'The LORD has not appeared to you.'" Exodus 4:1
Let me tell you, it can be a real fear.
Yes, there is real fear in preaching; a fear of others not believing, a fear of being mocked as a fool, a fear of standing alone.
But the deeper fear is the fear that as I speak in the presence of others, I will doubt. I will lose conviction. As all eyes turn to me to hear from the LORD, I will waver.
It is one thing to hear from the LORD as one is in prayer; in the sweet mystic presence of God where nothing seems impossible. The secrets of eternity are whispered. The powers of God's possibilities are seen. The vengeance of God's wrath is spoken. Most preachers will tell you it is a whole different thing when we move from our prayer closets to the public arena.
Moses made excuses: They won't believe me. I am unskilled in speech. Send someone else. They don't know you, LORD.
God gave Moses a few 'tricks' up his sleeve, literally--A staff that turned to a snake, A leprous hand that healed--to boost the confidence of the people...and his.
The people believed!
And yet, as the story goes on, their belief was sorely tested.
Perhaps, the real test is not the sermon at all. It is when each of us walks out the doors on Sunday morning believing, believing in the possibilities of God.
And then each of us is hit with our own sermons to preach. In the inner sanctum of the church, we really do begin to believe in this invisible, mysterious, holy God. We are unable to resist such grace, love and promise. We begin to believe there is another way, another kingdom. We do see ourselves as aliens in a foreign land. We see ourselves as free instead of slaves. We see we have a higher purpose than to spend our days in mediocrity.
Then we hit the pavement of the everyday road, courageous on Sunday, but by Monday, forgetful. The Pharaohs of the land harden their hearts toward us. The labor becomes more difficult. The straw gives out.
Here is where the real sermons are preached.
In the midst of the everday challenges to what the LORD has said, I must keep remembering that it truly was the LORD who said it. It was not a silly dream. It was not an empty hope. It was not the musings of a desperate weakling.
It was the creating, life changing Word from the LORD--spoken to me, spoken to you, received by faith.
It is a Word that cannot be moved. A Word of truth. A Word of the reality unseen.
OK, LORD, I will go. I will stand before your people. I will stand before Pharaoh. I will open my mouth, and I will be praying that you are with me. You must give me the words. You must give me the strength. You must give me the courage.
You must give me the belief in you.