So I have this voice in the back of my head that won’t stop repeating itself over and over again.
“It’s Easter; you’re sermon better be perfect!”
This voice never shuts up; every week, it’s either criticizing me because the sermon got done late, is going to be too long or too short, it is poorly exegeted, ad nauseam until it tries to convince me I’m a giant fraud.
I hope that’s not just me because otherwise this turned into a giant confession. Oops.
Anyway, most weeks I can point my finger at the voice, tell it that it’s a dirty liar, and then go on with my life. It never shuts up, but at least I convince it I’m actually in charge.
This week is different. That voice is loud, and it has the advantage; Easter is important, and it decided to use that to break down my confidence.
“It’s Easter; that isn’t an Easter sermon! You aren’t talking about salvation enough! Now you’re looking only at salvation and missing any other message! Wait, now you’ve forgotten salvation! Where’s the empty tomb, moron?!? That’s the same sermon they hear every year! That’s a sermon they’ve never heard because it’s terrible!”
It’s like the importance of the day gave it a shot of steroids and made it mad. And I listen because I’m a people-pleaser and the voice in the back of my head is someone to please, I suppose.
I swear this has a point other than me whining.
That voice has a purpose. It does, in fact, make me strive for better sermons. Every once in a great while the voice hits the nail on the head and makes me re-evaluate. Even today it made me look deeper into a passage I’ve probably read a thousand times and find that thread I had never seen before.
But then it started yelling at me that I’m not allowed to preach on that!
I have this expectation that I will give the very best sermon of my career every week, and that my sermon will be the best sermon anyone hears in any congregation anywhere in the world. I’ve worked on that expectation somewhat, but still the voice that makes me expect that of myself still lingers.
Growing up, my pastors always said that if they weren’t nervous walking into the pulpit, it was time to quit, and I have taken that to heart and applied it to myself. And every week, painfully over-prepared or woefully under-prepared, I feel about the same level of nerves.
But my CPE supervisor said something to me that I have wrestled with since: he doesn’t get nervous preaching. He said there’s a 50% chance he gives a great sermon, and a 50% chance he gives a terrible sermon, and that’s pretty much irrelevant because of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I don’t take that to the farthest conclusion, but I know if I’m being faithful, the Word will be preached. I just need to drop the expectation that every week will be a master-class in preaching.
Or any week. They can’t all be zingers, or even most.
Drop the silly perfection expectations for this week. Yes, the Easter event defines our salvation and makes us Christians. No, my Easter service does not.
Shut up, voice in the back of my head.