A Courteous Contrararian

Preaching at Standing Stones

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Mar• 15•15

I preached today at Standing Stones Church, where I regularly lead worship. I loved it. It was a wonderful experience.

But not in ways I expected. I expected to be nervous and I was, body-numbingingly nervous at first. I expected that I would probably preach badly and I did.

I expected to stay fairly close to my script and I didn’t. I wrote and timed it; 42 minutes. I rewrote it many times, crafting it until it was the best I could do. I spoke the whole sermon out loud four or five times to get me mouth used to forming the words. I didn’t abandon it but it was remarkable how little of it I actually spoke out loud, maybe a third pf it altogether. What did I talk about for the other 30 minutes?

But what happened during that time was far more important than anything I did or didn’t do. More important, and as I said at the start, more wonderful and more loving. And unexpected.

The congregation was pulling for me. They were almost willing me to do well, or at least to make it through. I didn’t realize it at the time. At the time, that body numbness had pervaded my mind and everything except the next words faded away. I probably focused on five people’s faces during the whole sermon. Where was I looking the rest of the time?

When I finally spoke the lasts words (not the one’s I had written, not the rousing and inspirational plea to change their lives forever for the better –  and the rest of the world at the same time) and the sermon was over and the service ended, they applauded. They applauded. This congregation that I know and love so well were so happy I made it through in one piece that they did something they had never done before; they applauded at the end of the sermon.

Well, maybe they have and I don’t remember or I wasn’t there. Heck, maybe they do every Sunday and I’m just too zoned out to appreciate it. But they clapped and I think it was for joy because they had all shared the experience of pulling for me. I got plenty of “nice sermon”s and “good job”s after the service even both they and I knew better.

The people of Standing Stones are so gracious. When I took over as worship leader a year and a half ago I was terrible. But the people of the church knew the situation and they didn’t complain and they didn’t find fault. They just loved me and we made it through. The worship this morning was awesome, and I can brag about it because I didn’t lead. The compliments this morning were a continuation of the way my people ahave always been.

The second unexpected thing that was both lovely and wonderful was the intercession of the Holy Spirit. He, without a doubt, changed things I was going to say, and clarified, and anticipated what was coming later. He took my sermon, the “written masterpiece” portion of it, and carved it up into something digestible. What a loving thing to do, for the congregation as well as myself.

At one point in the sermon I actually thought right after I said something, why did I say that. That’s part of my rousing ending? Now I know why I said it then, otherwise I would have never gotten to it. The Spirit must have liked it and wanted to make sure I got it in.

Although He must have known early on that I wasn’t going fit in much of what I had planned to say, it didn’t occur to me until much later. But when it did, when I saw there were 15 minutes left and (at the pace I had been going) 2 hours of material left to cover, I didn’t panic. It didn’t even bother me. I actually made a couple of jokes about it. And now I’m thinking that maybe I was misinterpreting the Peace of God as mind numbness.

When I’ve complimented Pastor Bob for a sermon, he’s usually said something like, “don’t thank me, praise the Holy Spirit.” I always thought he was being humble but now I’m not so sure.

I received so many blessings today. I have a blessings buzz even now. But I don’t feel the need to ever preach again.


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