I was asked to preach at my friend's Installation Service up in Northern Michigan. We made a weekend trip out of it, which except for arriving and returning at 2am, was a blast. For the sermon, I chose to preach on Ephesians 3:16-19:
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth adn length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
As part of my sermon, I cited Eugene Peterson's, Working the Angles, which is by far my favourite book on pastoral theology. Interestingly enough, the two retired ministers who gave the chargs (one to Andrew, one to the congregation) ALSO cited Eugene Peterson. It was particularly interesting since we had no knowledge of what each of us were going to say ahead of time. It's pretty cool to see God work like that.
When Bridgette and I were returning from the service, I was reminded of something very interesting. As Petereson talked about, and I had mentioned, being merely a professional minister, or posing as a pastor is not what we are called to do and not what people need. But it is very easy to do. That is why we must not only strengthen our inner being but also plumb the depths of God's love in Jesus Christ. But as we were driving home, I was reminded of how intoxicating preaching can be - it's almost like meth. Not that I would know what meth is like, I'm purely guessing here... Anyway, I can totally understand the pull to the ministry that can get ahold of our flesh. When you stand at the back of a congregation or whatever and receive all that praise after a "good" sermon - heck, the rush of adrenaline that kicks in as the "Spirit" (and I can only hope it's the Spirit) moves through you as you preach - it's like drinking 3 cups of coffee. An hour later in the car I still felt hyped up. It's stuff like this that reminds me of how careful I need to be. I think it's another reason why I've begun my pastoral ministry as an Associate Pastor. Yeah, I could be at a church of "my own" right now, preaching every week, getting all the accolades (and taking all the heat of course), but I still think I need preparation. Some people, and some of them are my close friends, were ready right out of Seminary. I on the other hand was not. Maybe, I'll be ready after serving a number of years in this congregation. Maybe, I'll be ready after serving in a few churches as an AP. Maybe I never will be. But in any case, I'll always need to beware of the intoxicating fragrance of the pulpit...