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Second-guessing Things Said in Sermons

I haven't heard other preachers talk about this before, so maybe it's just me, but...

Sometimes -- such as this past Sunday -- I will say something in a sermon that I start to second-guess afterward. 

I'm not referring to something I've said in a sermon extemporaneously, because I rarely preach something I haven't written out. (In so doing, I try to follow Karl Barth's advice that preachers should write out and then memorize their sermon, "and not leave it up to the Holy Spirit (or some other spirit!) to inspire the words.")

And in saying I sometimes second-guess something I've preached, I'm not saying I regret saying it. (I more often regret the things I don't say...but that's a topic for another time.)  

No, I'm referring to those times when on Monday or Tuesday, I start second-guessing something I've said in a sermon because what I've said is so head-shakingly good news it's hard to believe. Difficult to absorb. 

Or I've preached something that while intended for a wider audience/congregation, was likely intended just to convince or convert one person -- and that's the preacher himself! (Who, if we're honest, needs conversion and convincing as much or more as those being preached to.) Sometime around Tuesday, the words have taken root in my heart and sprouts are already popping up in my behavior.   

Take this past Sunday, for example: 

At one point, when preaching on Jesus' saying "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love," I said this: 

"The word 'abide' means not merely to accept or act in accordance with something, but to dwell in, or live in, as in one's 'abode,' or as in 'I abide in a small town. Therefore there's a place -- a condition, a state -- called the Love of God which we are not just to visit from time to time, but we are to dwell there. Live there. Make it our home." 

Whoa. 

Do you realize how radically different your life would be -- my life would be, our lives would be -- if we took that one concept seriously? Because if you're anything like me, you only visit The Love of God from time to time, like it's a nice restaurant. A place to get fed as a treat, mostly on special occasions. But enjoying the rich feast of God's love as our norm?!? 

Or at another point, when preaching on Jesus' saying "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete," I said this:

"He is saying these things to us for a purpose, a reason: namely, that his joy may be in you. Jesus was a joyful person. He was full of joy. The purpose of Jesus' teaching is that we have the same joy in us that he had in him. That his joy be in us. The term 'perpetually grumpy Christian' should be a contradiction in terms. An absence of joy is evidence of abiding somewhere other than The Love of God." 

 God wanted me to hear that. You, too? 

 And finally, this: 

 "This passage starts out with Jesus' followers being referred to as his 'disciples' but in just a few verses, they are being called -- we are being called -- 'friends.' Not servants, but friends. Friends of God. Friends with God. Do you think of God as your friend? As someone with whom you are friendly? Not because you chose God, but because God chose you. And appointed you to go bear fruit, fruit (of the spirit) that will naturally grow if you are abiding in, living in, dwelling in, Love of God and love for one another."

Yes, sometimes I second-guess things I preach. Not because I didn't pray them through before saying them. Not because I've preached something I regret. But because, flooded as we are with contrary messages of a distant or unloving god and subsequent Christian hand-wringing and grumpiness rooted in fear of that god, the Good News of the Gospel seems too good to be true. 

The Gospel may be upside-down and inside-out, but that just makes it unfamiliar, not untrue. 

So what I have to remind myself (and perhaps you?) is to turn my second-guessing into re-considering. 


A re-considering that -- sometimes even by Wednesday! -- leads to re-convincing and re-converting. 

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