A few times a year, I happily accept the invitation to preach at the church I attend. Sunday morning a few weeks back, as I put the final touches on my sermon, thrilled with the ease at which it came together and ever so proud of the message, I said a little prayer that God might humble me.
Sermons, after all, shouldn’t be about the messenger. Being in the pulpit isn’t about showcasing one’s speaking skills, or theological genius, or brilliant word-smithing. Preaching is about fading into the background while bringing to the forefront God’s word for God’s people.
Yet, there I was bubbling with pride as I saved my sermon and prepared to send it, reformatted for easy reading, from my laptop to the home computer for printing. When the file couldn’t be opened, I figured it was a PC to Apple miscommunication. When I attempted to open it again on my laptop, however, this is what I got:
Crap. I had just 30 minutes before worship, and here was Microsoft Word apologizing because it found a “problem” with the contents of my sermon. And more than that, the file was “corrupt.” I wasn’t expecting prayers to be answered like this!
Funny…very funny, God. I get it. Perhaps it was not the file, but my heart, that was problematic? Is that what you’re saying?
Uncertain if I should laugh or cry (I’m pretty sure I did both), I anxiously printed the original file, madly highlighted phrases and circled key words to aid my eyes in tracking, and raced to church with literally a minute to spare. Thankfully with the overload of adrenaline, there was no room in my heart for self-glorification during worship. Until the end of the service, that is. I found pride starting to resurface as I walked down the isle during the postlude. Maybe it was the smiles on people’s faces, or the woman who rose from her pew as I passed by, or the gentleman who reached out to shake my hand, but there was pride, taking my heart over again. I was beaming. And as I awaited at the back of the church, ready to receive my endless stream of fans, the unlikely happened. The fire alarm went off and at once everyone was required to leave the building.
Seriously?! The fire alarm? Oh…that’s a good one, God. Aren’t You clever! No accolades for me, I see.
It still makes me giggle to recall the sensation of pride rapidly deflating.
Right. This is not about me. Not my message, but Yours, God. Not my words, but that of the Holy Spirit touching hearts and impressing minds.
With word that all was clear, I made my way down to our fellowship hall for coffee, grateful for the few compliments I did receive while outside the church. No sooner did I fill my cup did a favorite parishioner of mine gleefully approach me. “I could listen to you all day long, Rebecca!” Her words, so kind…and heartfelt…and…. just enough tinder to spark the flame of pride again.
Right in that moment, I kid you not, right then…the fire alarm went off a second time.
Would you just give me a fat slice of that humble pie already? I’m sure it would go great with this cup of coffee!
Friends, when doing God’s work it is never, ever about us.
I feel blessed that in the weeks that followed, similar messages surfaced. We are to do things for God’s glory, not our own. We are God’s messengers. God’s servants. God’s light in the world.
It’s not about us.
Ironically, my sermon topic that day was about clothing ourselves in the garments God has chosen for us, God’s “holy and dearly loved” people. “…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And over all these virtues put on love.” (Colossians 3:12,14).
Eating my fat slice of pie, and drinking coffee, the irony did not escape me.