I have been preaching most every Sunday for thirty-five years. It means something like fifteen hundred Sundays by now ... and fifteen hundred sermons. Counting the sermons in Holy Week that are coming up I think there are fifteen sermons to be preached before I step out of the weekly rhythm that I have been in for three and a half decades. I find myself thinking back to my first weeks and months as a preacher when this all seemed so strange and new and difficult. Now it feels so familiar and habitual and ... difficult!
This coming Sunday is a case in point. First off, I have opted not to preach on the gospel text assigned by the ecumenical lectionary. It is a wonderful text (John 2:13-22 - John's version of Jesus overturning tables in the Temple) and one that I preached on three years ago at this same time. That sermon is posted here at in the temple. Instead, I am carrying forward the gospel lesson from last Sunday - Mark 8:31-38 - and pairing it with the epistle lesson from this coming Sunday - I Corinthians 1:18-25. They are two of the texts that I have found most compelling, most disturbing and most difficult to preach because they are not only the opposite of what we expect but are also at the very heart of Christian identity.
One would think that by now I would have some confidence in my capacity to give voice to the central claims - the good news - of the Christian faith. Yet I find myself struggling to find the words. Nonetheless, it is a great privilege to be given the time during the week to struggle with the words ... to wrestle out a sermon that is as honest a witness to the God who is met in cruciformity as I can manage. Back to the struggle.