Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Never Ending Countdown

I really loved the show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", not because the show was that great in and of itself (although it was good), but because it provided the weekly fix of intellectual fiction I had been missing since "The West Wing" ended. Either that or I just like Aaron Sorkin's writing a lot.

The main reason I loved this show was because I so identified with Matt Albie (played by Matthew Perry of "Friends" fame), who was the head writer of the fictional SNL type show. He was a very gifted writer but he was often distracted from his work by his personal demons. He was obsessive about the quality of his work and endlessly self critical. Truly a guy after my own heart.

In his office, Matt had a clock counting down the hours and minutes until the show went on the air. No matter how good a show had been, he began each week with a blank piece of paper and 158 hours to fill it. 

One of these days when I have some money to burn (which will be right about never since I have a baby on the way) I'm going to get a clock like that for my office to count down the 158 hours I have each week between Sunday mornings. No matter how good or bad a sermon may have been, I'm essentially facing a blank piece of paper on Sunday afternoon. I have lots of help filling it, of course, from books, colleagues, Roundtable Pulpit participants, and a very intelligent wife who won't let me cut corners in making an argument.

This probably makes me weird, but I get very energized by the challenge this presents. If I preached well, I get to turn around and try to do it again the next week. If I was just OK or flat out bad, I get to try to redeem myself in just a few days.

Now before I sound too narcissistic, preaching is clearly a different pursuit than giving a political speech or performing in a play. The sermon is not simply the sum total of my preparation and abilities, but instead is supposed to be a medium through which the Holy Spirit speaks to and blesses people. Some people say that the best preaching happens when the preacher gets out of the way and lets the Spirit do its thing. But I know myself well enough to know that if I'm unprepared, if I'm too nervous, or if I'm not in the right headspace, then I'm going to stand up there and stammer, tell bad jokes, and generally get in the way of the Spirit moving. Getting the heck out of the way takes a whole lot of work!

I'm writing this post on Tuesday morning at about 10 am. That gives me a little less than 110 hours before church on Sunday. I've got a lot of work to do so I can get out of the Spirit's way. 

Tick tock, tick tock...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I *adored* that episode of Studio60 as well (although overall, the show couldn't hold a candle to West Wing). As soon as I saw that clock and the way it dogged Matt all week, I identified right away. Some weeks it's a blessing-- a little push to get the juices flowing, a little challenge, a little hope for redemption as you say. But some weeks it's also a burden. I have to do this *again*? But I just finished a great (or not so great) service and I really want a break! But it's always there. Part of the countdown's reminder to me, endless as it is, is that this is life: each of us has only this week, this day, this moment to do our best at being a child of god in the world, so we give it our all. And we soar or fall on our faces, but the next opportunity is right around the corner.

(104 hours to go)