The church where I worshiped during college had several retired ministers as members. I learned that they really missed having something to say because anytime they were given a role in worship they couldn’t stop talking. What was to be a two minute offering appeal lasted seven or eight minutes. The quick mission announcement reached sermon-like lengths. The routine of sharing good news every Sunday for decades was hard to let go in retirement; they still wanted to say something.
When I started in ministry I was overwhelmed, during the first six months or so, with the expectation of giving a sermon every Sunday. Every week the people would gather, and I needed to have a sermon. The first few months I preached every Sunday were a mess, a desperate attempt to throw something together that sounded a little bit like gospel for the folks who came to worship. With time, though, I became comfortable. I remember a friend saying he was surprised with how much he had to say when he became an every Sunday preacher. It was true for me, too. Listening to scripture every week, and coming to share something from it in worship each week, became a comfortable routine, and I found my preaching voice.
I’m preached most Sundays since 1996. I’ve had solo pastor jobs, where I was the only one who would preach, and so every Sunday looms there at the end of the weekend, where the people are gathered and I’ll preach. As the years have passed and the sermon count has gone up the weekly sermon turned into the weekly friend, the routine of study and preparation and preaching a regular companion to my week. One time I counted how many sermons I’ve preached, and the number is near 1000. A thousand times I’ve come to worship and passed on what good news I could. Some have been awful, most were ok, a few were--hopefully--excellent. For almost every week, for almost two decades, preaching a sermon is something I’ve done.
For three months, though, I’m going silent. For June, July, and August of this year I won’t preach. This sabbatical gives me a season to rest from the weekly sermon. The rest is good, but I know I’ll miss preaching, too. Setting aside this weekly routine will give me time to rest the sermon-making muscles. I get it ruts. My preaching becomes dull. Batteries need to be recharged. I’ll return from this time a better preacher. I’m anxious, though, about giving this up for a time. I know I’ll miss it. Starting in a couple weeks I’ll embrace a time of, in Sunday worship, being silent and listening.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict