A woman (who shall remain nameless) spoke to me before I preached my first sermon at an 8:00 a.m. service in this parish. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that “the 8 o’clock sermon is not a rehearsal.” She expected, and not at all unreasonably, that the sermon she hears at 8:00 a.m. be as fresh and lively as the later version. I know that it rarely seems so, but I do prepare and rehearse my sermons.
For the preacher, each sermon can feel like a testimony before a judge and thankfully you (the people of St. Paul’s) are never as hard on me as I am on myself. My preparation is extensive but significantly improves this otherwise dim-witted preacher. I have yet to feel confident to abide by the recommendations Jesus makes in our Gospel today (Luke 21:5-19). “So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance…”
I believe (at least, I hope) that God’s Holy Spirit can inspire us in rehearsal too. But maybe? Maybe if I just wait, without preparation, Jesus will give me “words” and “wisdom.” Maybe?
It is clear though, that the issue for Jesus is not preparation or rehearsal, it is the gaining of our souls. It’s the big picture stuff. It is not about our testimony (what we say) but our endurance (the strength of our character) that God cares about.
Buildings come tumbling down. Preachers mess up. There are wars and destruction. Relationships get strained. Families scatter. Unbelievable election results. But we always have God. That’s the endurance that matters. Thankfully, God is always loving and forgiving. We can be hard on one another and even harder on ourselves, but in the end, it all comes down to a God whose love for us is endless.