You may not know this about me, but I'm very disciplined about my sermon prep (although I hope it's noticeable). I put a lot of work into each Sunday's message, even to the point of possibly over preparing, but I can't help myself. Part of it is that I have some OCD tendencies another part is that I'm scared to death of preaching every week, so I have a constant fear of falling on my face (which has happened - and I've lived to preach again).
Today was a day in which all the hard work of preparing a message really paid off. I had a really good time preaching today! Bryan and Tina Garner were able to be at church today, which isn't that often since Brian thinks he needs to be doing stuff like protecting others (he's a police officer). Brian came up to me after worship and said, "Dude, whenever I'm able to be here, you're always so fired up." I told him maybe it's just when he's here, so he should be here more often so I'd be fired up more often. Although, now that I think about it, it probably wasn't Brian that had me fired up but the message that was burning inside of me.
Since I knew I'd be gone most of last week, I was able to get all my studying done before leaving for the conference. That gave me almost a full week to let the message grow inside of me, even getting another story from Dale while in Atlanta that fit the passage perfectly. When I sat down in front of the computer, the message just poured out of me. And when I took the manuscript and turned it into the outline, the message really started to get ahold of me.
I was so fired up while practicing the message that I even started crying a couple times. This didn't happen while preaching this morning, though. I don't know if that's because I over-prepare and lose some of the raw emotion or because I freeze in front of a crowd (that seems most likely). But even by my "scared of public speaking" standards, I was pretty fired up today.
But as I was reading Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov this afternoon, I found a line that would've fit perfectly into this morning's message. Alyosha Karamazov's conversion to Christianity was described in this way:
As soon as he reflected seriously and was struck by the conviction that immortality and God exist, he naturally said at once to himself: 'I want to live for immortality, and I reject any halfway compromise."
To Alyosha it even seemed strange and impossible to go on living as before. It was said [by Jesus]: "If thou wilt be perfect, give all that thou hast to the poor and come and follow me." So Alyosha said to himself: "I cannot give two roubles instead of 'all,' and instead of 'follow me' just go to the Sunday liturgy."
That would've preached!