Friday, 3 August 2018

Loving the word

John 6:33
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

I no longer have a role in preaching during worship every week - that is not my calling at present. So, when I do have the opportunity to preach, I find it really exciting in a way I didn't often when I was preaching week in week out.
I frequently find myself these days, as I prepare to preach, as I spend time with the texts, thinking: "This may be my favourite text." Until the next time - and I discover another favourite text as I dwell on something different to preach on. Perhaps now that preaching in worship is no longer such a huge part of my role, it takes on a new significance.
As I reflected this week on my latest favourite text, I was drawn back to a visit to a huge old Church of Scotland manse on a late summer evening over 30 years ago. I had been called to meet "The Committee on Ministry" of the local Presbytery. I was invited into a sitting room to be interviewed by a committee of 11, 10 men and one woman. Although I knew most of those present, the gathering and the occasion was incredibly intimidating. I can remember my throat being so dry, I could barely speak and there was no "cup of cold water" on offer!
Apart from the ridiculously inappropriate questioning about how my husband might cope with his meals not being prepared while I engaged in ministry, one question that has always haunted me is this: "Do you have a desire to preach?"
In truth, my response was "No". 
Preaching was the last thing on my mind as I offered myself to be considered for training for ministry, even though that training was for ministry of Word and Sacrament.
But the whole interview seemed to hang on the answer to that question.
I'm not sure when that "Desire to preach" assailed me and established itself in my being. 
I suspect it first began to show itself as I undertook Biblical Studies and learned Greek and Hebrew. 
I suspect it snuck up gradually as I discovered God revealed in so many ways and as I encountered God in so many guises as I struggled with the word and as I engaged in ministry.
I suspect it began to creep in as I saw God in all those liminal times in hospital chaplaincy as I accompanied folk struggling to integrate changes forced upon them.
I suspect it began to take hold as I walked alongside those in the parish whose lives affected and informed how I read and interpreted the texts.
And I know it has become all the more real as I struggle with personal transition, answering a call to journey with others in transition, who also serve churches and communities in transition.
God who has stood with me at every threshold of ministry and life has transformed and integrated the texts until a desire to preach has emerged. It has taken some time but is all the sweeter for the painful and complicated labour.

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