I did something tonight that caused me some pain and some joy. What did I do? I read over some old sermons! Being the tech guy that I am and having had a computer since 1987, I have virtually all the sermons I have preached since that year on my hard drive. I’m not sure what I will ever do with them, but there they are representing my preaching ministry throughout the decades.
The reason that the experience of reading through them from time to time is painful is because some of them are well, not so good, could use some work, miss any significant point, and are just awful! While no one, no preacher shares an A+ sermon every week, sometimes I look back at what I’ve said and how I put things together and just cringe.
Moving on, (let’s please!), the reason looking back is at other times an experience of joy is I can see where I have been and I can identify places of growth. I see by the grace of God a depth of new light and insight. I see where I have been moved by the Spirit in the work of the sermons over time and from some points the sermons represent to now. It is often a point of deep celebration to see where God has guided my life and my experience of God over time. And I think it is a good practice to find ways to look back and give thanks for the ways God is at work in us.
Now my strong suspicion is that most of you don’t have a several decades long bank of sermons you can look back upon to do this reflection. But all of have markers along the journey that can reveal to us the steps we have taken along the way. We have ways and memories that we can engage to look back and see where God has led us and helped us to grow and change and go deeper in our faith.
Lent is a wonderful season to do this work. And I invite us all to devote some time during Lent to examine where God has brought us, to evaluate where we are, and where we have been. I trust you will find it a meaningful rehearsal for the growth and changes yet to come.