When I hung up my clergy robes nearly five years ago, I had clarity that it was a door closing. I emptied out my library and gave away my clergy vestments. I sent official correspondence requesting a change in status (the correspondence was lost, but that’s a different story). So it is with no small amount of trepidation that I prepare to preach for the first time (again) tomorrow morning.
As I emerged from a season of reflection last spring, I felt clarity about my call to live in service. Clear also was that a call to gathering and leading community in real time is not mine; no to starting a church, no to dusting off my profile. Pondering how to faithfully share the myriad of lessons learned and windows opened in these recent years, I felt (and feel) clarity about continued writing. Check.
And several weeks later came one additional piece, that of offering to step in, for just one Sunday at a time, and offer pulpit supply (guest sermon).
In theory it’s no big deal. Preaching was one of my favorite parts of ministry, I know the lectionary passages inside out, and I have a pile of new stories from which to draw. And while I won’t know the members of the congregation, that should actually make it easier. Slip in, share the good (if challenging) news, slip out. In terms of navigating relationships, this is about as easy as it gets. Right?
Yet as I prepare for my first gig tomorrow, I confess to feeling a bit like Jonah resisting the call to Nineveh. Smallish and whitish churches spread across the heartland that might have need of pulpit supply are exactly where I do NOT feel safe and welcome anymore, and haven’t for some time. In fairness it is also true that I, like Jonah, have more than a wee bit of judgment about Nineveh. Unlike Jonah, I have actually spent time in Nineveh. I have called Nineveh home, delighting in the potlucks, the ladies guild, the trappings. But somewhere along the line I lost my enthusiasm. Perhaps that too is a story for another day.
Because tomorrow I am headed out to a far St. Louis suburb to share the gospel in the light of lessons learned post 8/9/2014.
And like Jonah, my emotions are complicated. What if they don’t listen? Or worse, what if they do? What if I say exactly the wrong thing? Will I know when to sit and stand? Should I have a children’s story ready to go? And (let’s face it, this is the real question) because I’m a woman who gave away her clergy vestments (I had stopped wearing them on principle long before I gave them away anyway, but still…), what will I even wear??? Sigh.
I think I might follow Jonah out onto the beach tonight. But e’en if I do, I know how the story ends. I’ll still have to face Nineveh in the morning.
So it is that tomorrow I am preaching my first sermon. Again.
ps: Please know that in the biblical narrative, Nineveh were (despite Jonah’s reluctance), actually great folk much beloved by God.
pps: I’ll post the sermon tomorrow when it’s too late to back out. 🙂