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Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013
A bomb in GreencastlePosted Monday, July 25, 2011, at 4:40 PM
It happens every so often no matter how much work and preparation I put into it.
I can spend hours upon hours in research, writing, and memorizing the sermon I will be giving in the Sunday morning worship service.
I stand there ready to deliver, ready to perform this work of art. Yet, once I begin, everything falls apart. The illustrations don't work. Getting from point A to point B worked well on paper but my logical path doesn't work at all in front of human beings!
I start feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach. Members of the congregation start yawning and texting. I want to end this travesty but can't find a way a place to simply stop. It goes on for what feels like hours.
The pastor has delivered a bomb.
It happens to the best of us. After 30 years of preaching mine seem to happen less frequently. And I still never know when it's going to happen!
Surely there is someone or something I can blame for these rare occurrences (I wish!). The weather was dark and cloudy and so everyone was already in a low energy mood.
Perhaps it happened because of the kind woman who dumped all kinds of negativity upon me the moment before worship started: "Here's what I don't like about what you are doing."
Maybe the sun got in my eyes and so I couldn't see my manuscript (except I don't preach with texts in front of me).
Maybe Mercury was in retrograde.
Phyllis was a kind old soul who graced an earlier congregation I served. Wider than she was tall, she blessed me with praise and affirmations that really helped during the years I served as her pastor. One Sunday a bomb was delivered and there is nothing worse for a pastor than to stand at the back of the sanctuary shaking hands with people who won't look at you as they quickly pass by.
Phyllis waddled down the aisle after nearly everyone else had left. Taking my hand, she tilted her head and said words I shall never forget. "Look at it this way, pastor. Maybe the offering was good today!" She cackled all the way to the coffee and donuts and somehow I rediscovered that life was good even after delivering a bomb.
I've preached when in great health and when carrying a 104 degree fever. I've preached healing sermons to congregations in great pain and prophetic sermons about justice to some of the most uncaring people in the world. I've preached very serious messages that struck to the core of people and I've preached what I thought were serious messages that were loaded with humorous "truths" that had passed me by. Yet, nothing, nothing "prepares" a pastor for that deadly bomb that strikes without warning.
Good people, even when things go wrong despite all our best efforts, we can't quit. We are human. That means we aren't perfect. Get over the mistakes we've made. Move forward. Move on.
I pray that your "humbling" experiences happen less frequently. I pray that you will have many people like Phyllis in your life.
And most of all, I pray that you'll forgive your pastors when bombs appear out of nowhere. Give us another try. And, remember, while you may not be in a pulpit, others are aware of your bombs in life that occur from time to time. That's the thing about bombs in life; they always blow up in front of other people.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.