Each Sunday I am tasked with preaching a sermon. My preparation follows a similar path. I read the text and listen. I study the text and listen. I recall my history and listen. I observe my culture and listen. Effective sermons are heard before their spoken. The Holy Spirit mutters, and I translate. Occasionally, I ad lib: insert joke here; cue the video here; word study and grammar note there. Mostly, I follow a Script.
When a series on the Church approached the topic of the Holy Spirit--its guarantee, gas, glue--I shifted my path. I compiled the list of references to the Holy Spirit in Ephesians and invited our church to listen with me. What did they hear (men snoring, not included)?
For me this was a critical moment. I wanted them shape the sermon. Guided by the Spirit and God's Word, I insisted our church did not need me to respond to God. A better Helper guided us into all Truth. I merely facilitate--a vessel, a voice, a preacher.
I set up our worship service like a laboratory for the Holy Spirit. He was the controlled element. We were the variables. But I learned a few things:
- Every Sunday is a laboratory, but...
- The Holy Spirit is in control of set up, not me
- I can no more control or harness the Holy Spirit than Simon could in Acts 8
- But I can grieve Him (I don't think I did)
- Measurements for the ongoing Holy Spirit experiment--call it Church, God's Mission, or the Incarnational life--consist of more than grunts, chair placements, and participation.