Preaching Coram Deo

In a plane, on my way to address a large crowd, many of whom may well be hostile, fear is heavy on my mind, and truth be told, even on my heart. There are many who have a deep seated fear of flying. I am not one of them. For all the hassles, and all the close quarters, for all the waiting and being herded about like cattle, I like flying. It still amazes me that we are hurtling through thin air. Dominion becomes magic.

There are many more who have a deathly fear of speaking in public. One study has even suggested our greatest fear isn’t death, but public speaking. Not me. I love speaking in public. It’s work, hard mental work that wears me out. But I have no fear. Except perhaps for today. I’ve dealt with hostile strangers on the interwebs. I’ve dealt with hostile people that I knew. But I have little experience dealing with hostile people in a crowd. Speaking against abortion at Indiana University, home of the Kinsey Institute, I’m likely to see some hostility.

I have one friend who is comfortable speaking to a crowd. Where he gets uncomfortable is speaking in front of friends. Or at least, men whom he deeply respects. He mentioned his fear to me once about having my father, or other honored theologians sitting in on his sermons. I explained, “But you understand, don’t you, that every sermon you preach Jesus is right there?” “Yes,” he replied, “I know that. But Jesus won’t judge me.” “And isn’t that the point brother?” I closed.

None of us like not being liked. None of like having others determine that we have come up short, that our skills are lacking, that our knowledge is negligible. I’m afraid that I might tonight not be as faithful as I should, that I might not be as clear, that I might not be as persuasive. Which is why this morning I have been preaching to myself.

“RC,” I say, “when God put you on this planet did He say to you, ‘Now whatever else you do, be certain that you are liked. Don’t come up short. You mustn’t lack any skills; you must know enough to win the day?’ When He redeemed you, did He not say to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his Master. They hated Me. They will hate you.’ When you resolved to follow Him did you not resolve to set aside your own desires, your petty concerns? What eternal difference could it make if they get angry at you? And when you die, and because of Him you hear your Father say to you, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ will that not satisfy you?”

Whatever happens tonight, Jesus won’t judge me. Because Jesus was judged for me.  Just as we are called to dance like no one were watching, so I am called to preach like no one is listening. Save my Father in heaven, who is grinning from ear to ear, as happy with me as He was with His Son when He preached on the Mount. I won’t tonight merely preach before the face of God. I will instead be blessed by Him and kept. I will preach with His face shining down upon me, with His grace upon me. I will proclaim His Word with the light of His countenance upon me. And I will have His peace.