“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” – St Francis Assisi
All month long, I’ve been seeing my colleagues and sisters in ministry Facebook about the Martha Stearns Marshall Preaching Month for Baptist Women, a chance for churches to support women in ministry and give them the opportunity to preach in the pulpit. This is the first February in several years I haven’t done that. I didn’t have the opportunity to preach this year.
My roommate asked me the other day if I miss preaching. I had to think about that for a few minutes and realized that I do miss it. I miss studying the lectionary and writing down my questions. I miss reading the commentaries and finding answers to some of those questions and more questions to ask. I miss doing my mind maps to organize my thoughts. I miss the moments when the sermon seeps through the keyboard and onto the screen, coming together in a way I never imagined. I definitely miss getting behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings, saying a quiet prayer and then sharing the words that God asked me to speak. Then when I am done, I sit down and let out a small sigh of relief, thinking I’ve done my best. The rest is up to God.
So yes, I miss preaching.
However, I look at what I’m doing now. I am a Chaplain Resident in a Level 1 Trauma Center hospital. I am doing something I’ve not done before – at least not to the work and depth I am doing now. I am studying. I am researching. I am asking questions and searching for answers. More importantly, I am bringing a message to those who are lost – not an evangelical loss, but lost in a place where they are afraid. They may be grieving, hurting, or searching for their answers. I don’t know what I will face when I enter a room, but I still trust that God will guide me wherever I need to go. The difference between being in the pulpit or being in the hospital room is hard to say. I prepare what I can. I quietly pray before I enter and lift up a breath of release when I leave. The difference is I may never say a word when I hold a patient’s hand. We may laugh, cry, or just sit in the quiet reflection. There will be prayers of grace when a family watches their loved one take her last breath; or words of healing for the elderly man going into surgery. I will hold a falling mother in my arms as she hears that her daughter died in the car accident or her son died by a gunshot wound. I sit with a family when the doctors say the words they never want to say, “There is nothing more we can do.”
In the other part of this ministry, I will hug a nurse who experienced her first death and pray with the secretary who is having a difficult time at home. I pray with the nurse whose patient hits too close to home for him and cry with the doctor who told the family, “There is nothing more I can do.”
When the day is done, I walk to my car wondering if I’ve done my best and then I leave the rest of it to God.
So yes, I am still preaching.