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Before I preach I want to check to see if my soul is hanging out, like you might check to see if your slip is showing or your fly is down.

Preaching is hard. It’s not hard because you hunt for the right story or the perfect quote. It’s not hard because it’s a challenge to give the historical context without curing the listener of her insomnia. Preaching is hard because it is so vulnerable.

There’s the vulnerability of wrestling with the text. It can be a real match between what I wish the Bible said, what it really says, who I think I am, who I really am, who I want to be, and what the Spirit seems to be saying. I dare to let my soul be shaped by that encounter.

Every week I ask of what I am preparing to preach: Do I really believe this? Do I at least want to believe this? Have I experienced this good news or at least hope to experience this good news? Do I stake my life on it?

And then there’s the vulnerability before the congregation. In my 6th year at my church I think folks know me now. When I preach about patience they know the times when I’ve interrupted someone while I was trying to make a point. When I urge boldness they know when I’ve lost my nerve. When I preach about keeping promises they know when I haven’t followed through. They’ve brought me casseroles after a medical procedure and cookies for encouragement. Many of my congregants were there the Sunday I announced, through tears, my divorce. A few heard me swear like a sailor after slipping on the tile in our Narthex (on Christmas Eve). They know me.

All I really have to offer my congregation is the result of my wrestling match with God. I try to preach from scars and not from wounds.[1] My most personal sermons are often the ones where I don’t tell a single personal story.

My best sermons aren’t always the ones with the clever jokes or video-clips or tear- jerking stories. They are the ones where I offer my very self.





[1] Nadia Bolz-Weber uses “scars and wounds” to talk about how she chooses what to reveal about her life. She shares stories about things that are her past, and doesn’t share wounds that still hurt in her present.