I figured it out today. I did the math. I think I have heard my father preach approximately 1882 times. Over the years, his sermons have taught me, formed me, inspired me, challenged me, and convicted me. His sermons brought the Bible to life and taught me how to live. They also taught me–though I didn’t know it at the time–how to preach. Compare those 1882 sermons to the 90 hours I spent in preaching classes in seminary, and it’s clear who had the greater impact on my own preaching.
I have heard my father preach approximately 1882 times. But in all those 1882 times, I don’t think I was ever nervous. Tomorrow will be a first. Tomorrow my father will step into my pulpit and give a sermon to my people. It’s actually not the first time he’s been there. He participated in my installation service, though he didn’t preach. But at that time, I was new to this church. I hadn’t yet made the pulpit my own. It hadn’t yet staked its claim on me.
This time is different.
It’s not that I don’t like to share. He is preaching, after all, at my invitation. But it will feel weird. It will feel strange to share my pulpit with someone whose theology differs rather significantly from my own. But that’s really not the issue, not the cause for my discomfort.
In my mind I keep seeing him standing there in my pulpit, and I know how he fills a pulpit. He stands there, all 6’3″ of him, handsome and vibrant even at 73, and he looks like every pastoral search committee’s favorite candidate. He wears the mantle of leadership so naturally, like he was made for it and it for him.
I, on the other hand, sometimes struggle with the mantle. When it was first placed on my shoulders it felt completely natural–and at the same time, unnaturally heavy. It’s not that the mantle doesn’t fit me. It does. Sort of. Most of the time. But sometimes I chafe under it and try to shift it around to find a more comfortable way to carry it. Not my dad, though. He is always and ever shall be Pastor Maddox. I’m not. I’m Pastor Cindy. Or just Cindy.
I think maybe what I’m nervous about is seeing my dad–in my mind, the very epitome of what it means to be a pastor–stand in the place where each week I try. I don’t have his presence. I don’t have his authority. Sometimes I worry about that. But then I remember. I remember what I do have. I have my own God-given gifts. I have my own calling. I have a way of connecting with people and connecting the Bible to real life. I have an authenticity in the pulpit that seems to assure people that they’re OK, too. I don’t have my father’s gifts. I have my own.
My dad’s sermons taught me, formed me, inspired me, challenged me, and convicted me. And tomorrow I hope his sermon will do the same for my congregation. My people. The people I claim as my own. The people who have staked their claim on me.
So bring us a word from the Lord, Dad. I look forward to seeing you in my pulpit.