Friday, August 1, 2014

Processing My First Sermon

...or "2 Corinthians 12:9 Lived out"

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I have had a week and a half to process through preaching my first sermon in German. It was a huge honor and a great learning experience. This is one of those milestones that we can point to along the road. It is a stone of remembrance at which we can say, "up till now, the Lord has helped us."  Now that it is over, I am starting to get some perspective on what God taught me through the entire process.

1. Preaching in German Highlights my Weaknesses

At Moody, I was able to take a preaching class and learn the basic nuts and bolts of preparing and delivering a message. Also in our preparation to move to Vienna, I had the privilege of speaking in various contexts, as well as preaching. Through all this, I have become acquainted with my weaknesses as a speaker. While I am generally not very nervous when speaking in front of groups, I am also a verbal processor. This means I can verbally chew on an idea (too long) while I am speaking until I craft it the way I like it. The big way to work on this is two-fold. The first is spending more time in preparation, crafting specific statements to make them just right. The second is practicing a sermon once it is prepared.
The great thing for me about preaching in German has been that crutch of being able to "verbally chew" an idea in English is greatly diminished in my German. If I tried to do that, we'd be there for a long time and many words would just not come to mind. Because of that, I had to manuscript the sermon and practice it far more than I have in the past. I had to stick to my notes because they were my lifeline!

2. Encouragement is Legit

Austrian culture is not always known as an encouragement-oriented culture. We Americans often get lovingly made fun of for how we are so positive and exuberant about things (eg. what awesome hair do you have there! or It was the best night ever!). There is a phrase in German that you hear all the time here, which is "schau mal mal." It basically translates, "eh, we'll see." Neither response is 100% correct. Americans can be too flippant. In a world where everything is "awesome" or "legendary", do those words lose all meaning?
In this respect, our church is very counter-cultural. After my sermon, I received emails, facebook notes, and in person encouragements that were so wonderful. In all the ways that we try to put ourselves out there, we are consistently met with encouragement and love from our church community. For me, this shows how the body of Christ can be counter-cultural and display the gospel to one another. It has even more impact when we see it countering deeply-held or automatic cultural responses and to see it as a natural outflow and not something forced. 

3. I am far more weak, broken and frail than I usually am willing to admit to myself or others

During the preparation process, I had a few moments of shear doubt and fear. That feeling of dread, like when you are really caught, came over me. The source of this doubt was, "What happens when Sunday comes and I am not ready? What happens when I get to that point and it is just not there?" To be honest, there is a twinge in me just writing it out again. But it is in those moments of desperation that we are able to cry out to God. It means trusting him to supply our needs and taking steps of faith forward.
Don't be discouraged if you have moments like this. If we take no risks or never put ourselves in a position where we can fail, we are also missing the chance for God to do something through us.