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Monday, September 6, 2010

Preaching sick

I call it "preaching sickness" but most simply call it nervousness. I've been preaching the gospel for 48 years now, and I must confess I still get preaching sickness. When I am about to enter the pulpit my thoughts wander to "how can I possibly give these dear people a message from God?" Or, "I have nothing to say" or "I just can't do this!" I don't really lose that edgy feeling fully until I begin to actually preach. Then I get lost in the word of God. I am excited about the wonderful news of God's love in Jesus Christ that I find it relatively easy to flow and gush over the pulpit and into the congregation. Then (so help me this is true) I never cease to be amazed that someone is blessed by something that came out of my mouth. I have often prayed, "Lord, you can make something of nothing, therefore bless this sermon." God used a dumb ass to speak to Baalim, and it is just as miraculous that He uses me to speak to people.

But recently my sickness was more literal. On vacation in Sedona, AZ, I was asked to preach at our mission station in Cottonwood, about 25 miles away. Before Sunday dawned, I was bent over the toilet, vomiting. I felt crummy from head to toe, and weak as a kitten. But I had a responsibility to fulfill, so off we went. Barbara had to drive the car while I dozed. I leaned on the pulpit and gasped for breath as I gave it my best effort under the circumstances. When I was finished, and about to administer the Lord's Supper, I had to ask for a chair to finish. Of course I made it a point not to touch the elements for fear of spreading the plague. I sat for a while rather than greet folks at the door, but this being a small group informality was in vogue. After being chauffeured back to the resort, I crashed for the remainder of the day. I didn't have the strength to change my clothes. Strangely, the next morning I was fine, and even a bit hungry.

That reminded me of another sick preacher I witnessed in my early Christian years. Before we were married, both Barbara and I were worshipping in our OPC in Eagle Rock, CA. On certain Sundays, when our pastor was away, we had other men supply. One of our favorites was a man named Paul Lovik. He was faithful to the word, and he was positive and enthusiastic in his manner. But on the given Sunday I have in mind, during the evening service, he had to abandon the pulpit in mid-sermon, to leave the auditorium through a side door, but he barely made it before we could hear the unmistakable gaging and splattering of him puking. When he felt he was finished, he returned to the pulpit and finished the sermon. Frankly I don't remember what he was preaching about.

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