And then there was one.
I’m counting down the number of sermons I’m going to preach in this beloved church before I leave. After today I see one more on the calendar. And then I’m done. Auf Wiederluege.
I’ll say this much: it’s not easy. There’s so much emotion. But there’s also this: freedom, the kind of freedom that I didn’t feel at the beginning and that I’m guessing no one, not even the best of preachers, feels right away.
But I feel it now.
I should point out that the freedom I feel is not the desire to tell anyone off. You might think that with only one more sermon to go I might feel like letting it rip. Doesn’t everyone have a fantasy about telling someone – an employer? – what you really think and then walking out the door?
But that’s not what I’m tempted to do. Early in my ministry – I regret it now – I got something off my chest in a sermon. I wrote it out, calculated it, timed it, relished it – only to find out later that the person I most wanted to hear it wasn’t in the congregation that Sunday. I never attempted such a thing again. I’m ashamed that I even did it once.
No, the desire right now is to preach with emotional honesty. Not that previous sermons in this church have been dishonest, but there’s always a kind of holding back. You don’t express everything in a sermon. You can’t. At least I can’t. Laughter and tears aren’t a good idea every single week. I would wear myself out, and I know I’d wear out my congregation.
But right now, in this sweet spot between announcing my departure and leaving, I find myself wanting to say everything with transparency and honesty. It’s hard work, but it’s important.
I know I’ll never get this opportunity again.
(Photo credit: That’s me, but not my publicity photo. If you have an iPad, you know how much fun it is to explore all of the features.)