This Week’s Assignment

From Guest Writer:
Rev. David Feltmen, Pastor to the Presbytery, North Central Iowa

It’s an old preachers joke. The preacher says she will not begin preparation on her sermon until there is a word from the Spirit. Monday, is quiet. Tuesday, Wednesday – nothing. By Friday, there is panic in the preacher’s life. No word from the Spirit on Saturday. Finally, on Sunday, as the preacher is climbing into the pulpit, the Spirit speaks, “You’re not prepared, are you?”

The assignment for this week is to consider preparation!

My worship/preaching professor, back in the day, taught there should be an hour of preparation – the exegetical work, reading, studying, practicing and praying, for each minute of preaching. This may seem like an impossible extravagance with the challenges of today’s ministry.  And yet, the standard of in depth preparation still stands. When a preacher shorts preparation, the church dozes off in multiple ways. The other side of this is the question, will the church support and encourage the Pastor to make time/take time for preparation?

Sue and I welcome guests in our home. God has given us three beautiful acres in rural Iowa and we enjoy sharing them. Impending guests are reminders to clean the house and mow the yard. The preparation is a significant piece of the hospitality. We have prepared for you. You are important to us. The comfortable bed and carefully prepared meals are the punctuation to the welcome.

I am the mentor to a couple Pastor Cohorts. The content preparation is crucial for our gatherings and I also “worry over” the room and arrangements. It is a part of my prayer for the event. The chair arrangement, the worship center, the preparation is a part of the hospitality for the time of learning and support. And, to be honest, as Pastor to the Presbytery (formerly called General Presbyter) I worry about those pastors who do not “worry over” the worship space on Sunday mornings. How can a preacher get into the pulpit in worship and discover the technology is not functioning? Attention to detail is a part of our hospitality. We have prepared for you.

It sounds Biblical – I have prepared for you. John 14 says, “I have prepared a place for you”. I had an elder at one of the churches I served who lacked a firm understanding of grace. He delivered babies in his professional life; I hope he understood he was serving God in that important role. He could not give much service to his church, in those years, but in his retirement years he became a ruling elder. He said he was “preparing for the finals,” actually he said, “cramming for the finals.”

My big brother grew sweeter as the years went by. He survived his first heart attack at age 41, but the attack did its damage. He kept on driving truck, which did not help his heart disease, but there were bills to be paid. We lost him at age 64. A couple years before he died, he landed in the hospital and I thought it was the last stop.

I drove the miles to sit with him for a while. Even when I try, I can’t rein in the fact that I am a pastor. I went there as a brother but it came up in the conversation. A long time ago I read it is the pastor/chaplain’s responsibility to help the terminal one prepare for death with his/her final assignments. My resource said that if the Pastor/Chaplain doesn’t help in a timely way this work may go undone. Here is my paraphrase of the four important tasks:

  1. Put your house in order – the will, the finances, all the powers of attorney. I include in number one coming to peace with God.
  2. Thank the people you should thank.
  3. Forgive the people you should forgive.
  4. Take charge of whatever time is left – don’t let your spouse or kids make all the decisions.

Gently I broached the sensitive subject with my brother in his hospital room. I suppose he thought this is what one has to endure when one has a brother who is a pastor. When I completed the list, he was quiet for a time. Then he said, “Maybe we should live that way all the time.”

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