Today was the hardest day of our trip for me, which is strange because today was Sunday; we went to church, and I was scheduled to preach. Should have been easy, right? After all, I'm a preacher; that's what I do. Not that I'm especially good at it, or better than anybody else. But that's what I do. Most Sundays (at home), preaching and leading worship is no big deal. Sure, lots of preparation and worries over the details, but I do it. Three times, most Sundays.
But for some reason today, I was very nervous. (I was probably a jerk to everyone in our group as a result). I'm not sure why I was so nervous.
Two years ago when we were in Ecuador, I preached at a church service and all was well. Interestingly, two years ago, I came expecting our church to be a poor, indigenous community; and the church we attended was urban and yuppie-like, with a praise-band and words projected onto wall screens.
So, this time we specifically asked to attend worship at an indigenous church. I knew what to expect. Except I couldn't get it fixed in my mind.
Before we left I wrote a perfectly fine sermon -- using the story of Naaman and the servant girl, exploring the ideas that the powerful need humility and the "unimportant" are often God's preferred. Nice ideas. Good edge of liberation theology, the importance of women, etc. But, the sermon just seemed "canned."
So, Friday night I borrowed a computer and tapped out a new sermon, really just a reflection on some of things we've seen here -- happy children, the woman washing our hands, another woman inviting us to her home, the hard work of our group, and the heavenly blue color of the church we were painting. I tied those living sermons that I had seen to biblical texts of the same ideas.
Then, this morning rolled around. We got to the church. Welcome, music, dancing (that was lovely), prayers (with ululation), scripture-reading. Then time for me to preach.
I couldn't feel it, couldn't get in the groove. I was nervous. The rhythm of translation was off (too choppy, I felt). My sermon was too long, so I weaved and dodged my way along, leaving my poor translator adrift on his own wits. (He did fine.)
Basically, I hit on three points: 1) They don't need me (a North American) to come tell them about Jesus; their Christianity (while different than mine) is vibrant and active. 2) They are blessing their children as Jesus did; don't let them fall prey to poverty or materialism. 3) The new sky-blue paint in their church is a reminder to live out the vision of heaven that Isaiah has -- a vision of peace, equality, and plenty.
Mercifully, I was brief, and the sermon was over.
I hope the point of them not needing me to preach to them was received. Maybe my poor attempt at preaching proved my own point.