It’s not uncommon for this week’s sermon to cause more than the usual anxiety. It is, after all, the Biggest Day of the Year. Most congregations will have extra services, extra visitors, and extra music. You, the preacher, may feel like the sermon must contain something extra too. After all, you might reason, there will be visitors in the pews who likely won’t hear another sermon all year long, so it better be an awfully good one. And the pressure of the week may be further complicated by the necessity of preparing simultaneously for Maundy Thursday’s darkness or Good Friday’s last words.
Once, when I was preaching for a special occasion, I remember asking a colleague for advice. “Sure it’s a special day,” he said, “but it also is a day like any other. There will be a sacred text for the day – pray with it. There will be your personal study – attend to it. There will be hungry people – feed them. This is just another sermon, flowing in the stream of the history of sermons.”
Instead of the pressure to produce the Best Sermon of the Year for the Biggest Day of the Year, what would it be like to do what you always do? Pray and study and in the end get out of the way and ask Jesus to help you feed the people who will arrive hungry, fancy hats and all.
There are two possible gospel lessons suggested for the week. Which one are you more drawn to? Mark, with its breathless pace, its terror and its strangely truncated ending? Or do you take a more leisurely route with John, a meeting of friends in the garden and the mystery of one who appears but cannot be held? Personally, I am trying something new this year by alluding to the gospels but making Isaiah’s prophetic words the central theme of the sermon. You also have a strong option with the Acts passage. How might our-God-who-shows-no-partiality be good news for you and your people this week?
Let us know how it’s going in the comments. You can find this week’s texts right here.