Psalm 19 – The 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 16, 2012
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork…” Psalm 19:1
O Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your presence, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
I’ve spoken the above prayer—a personally altered version of Psalm 19’s final verse—at the start of (nearly) every sermon I’ve preached.
Using Psalm 19’s conclusion is a nod to the person who most influenced my preaching style. My friend Don Fado also prayed a variation of Psalm 19:14 before his sermons. As a college student, first listening to Don, I admired his enthusiasm and vulnerability while he proclaimed the Gospel. When I became an ordained pastor, I had no qualms about “borrowing” a mentor’s use of a Psalm verse.
Using Psalm 19’s conclusion calms me prior to the unleashing of the sermon’s words. Like latching a seatbelt before driving away, it’s a habit providing security and familiarity. Without a seatbelt, I feel funny…off…incomplete. And for good reason! After all, there’s a greater chance of dying in a car crash than by a lightning strike or bee sting*. Driving a few miles for groceries or across the country can be one of the most dangerous things I do. And yet, I view preaching as a more dangerous activity. Maybe my words won’t prevent or cause bodily harm, but any preacher can craft sentences to heal souls and soothe worries. Preachers also possess the unnerving power to topple over-confident egos or pose sharp-edged Gospel questions to shred the self-serving answers of complacent pew dwellers. If a sermon can’t add to the healing of a troubled heart or pull the rug from under a narcissistic buffoon, why bother to open your mouth? Of course I’m a fool to think I could make a difference in another’s life by stringing together a few thoughts in a sermon. However, I’m a worse fool not to believe I couldn’t. Continue reading →