The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they preach (Matthew 23: 2-3).
As a parent in a two-clergy person household, I’m always very aware of how there are sometimes heavy expectations on how my children behave. Everybody knows who they are, so I try to shield them as best I can from the unreasonable aspects of this scrutiny. I know they are being watched.
I also know that they are watching us.
I know that they are aware of late vestry and church council meetings. I know that they know funerals happen whenever they’re going to happen, and that sometimes you just can’t make it to every school performance though you always do your best.
Kids hear you preach, too.
I was acutely aware of this recently amid a busy weekend. I spent my Friday “off” preparing sermons for a Saturday morning funeral and for Saturday evening worship. I left for the funeral on Saturday morning with my regular sermon unfinished, but I had 9 hours until it had to be delivered. It would get done eventually. As soon as I arrived home from the funeral and took my collar off, my phone rang. My family was on their way to the waterslide park. Did I want to come?
My sermon was, at best, at 60%. But did I want to come? Yes, but…
I looked at my text. What was it about? Sabbath. Yes, that’s right, I was spending my Saturday afternoon off working on my sermon. About Sabbath. And this is after I had already spent my previous day off also working. Something here didn’t quite add up. I reread a quote I was using from Walter Brueggeman’s book Sabbath as Resistance, “the well-being of creation does not depend on endless work.”
Trusting in my 14 years of ordained ministry to get me through and hastily writing down everything I could think of at the moment, I went to go get my bathing suit.
Later that day at church, I preached. My daughter was in the congregation, and as I watched her fidget the Gospel was proclaimed. Standing in the pulpit, offering what I had on the page, I also received what God had offered back to me that day. Four hours earlier, I was jumping in the wave pool. About to celebrate the Eucharist, I felt firmly held in both of my worlds; behind the altar, preparing with my congregation to be fed, and as a parent, wrestled into wholeness by a kid who wanted both of her parents and would feed us in her own way.
It would have been better if I’d worked on that sermon earlier in the week. I have definitely written better ones. That day, though, I also heard some good preaching through the waves. Hopefully I shared some of that, too.
[Image Credit: public domain via Pixaby]
In what ways have you adjusted your actions to better practice what you preach?