It's 10:39 on a Sunday morning, the Second Sunday of Advent, 2007. In a few minutes I'll put on a clergy robe and don the blue stole that is identical the ones the other ministers in our church will wear. They were all hand-made by a dear saint in the choir.
I'll go out for a microphone check and line up with the choir for the processional. For the next hour and a half in that robe I'll be speaking on God's behalf, I'll be an objectified symbol of religion for some, and a hopeful sign of the possibility of God for others.
It is a mantle I have accepted, but not one I would choose.
I wouldn't choose it because every Sunday morning I am sick to my stomach. I've preached nearly 500 sermons in my life, and yet I spend 30 wrenching minutes in the bathroom every time. I do it because I am afraid. Now don't go thinking you can talk me out of this - others have tried, and frankly I think the fear is somewhat healthy.
It's not that I'm afraid of speaking in public. I do that lots, and if it's not in worship then I don't get sick. Honestly, I'm afraid of God. I'm afraid of hurting someone. I'm afraid of saying something that would distract from God almost as much as I fear having nothing to say at all. I fear that people will see that blue stole as a costume cover up for the fact that sometimes I am a doubting Thomas, sometimes I am a cynic about religion, and that sometimes I am closer to leaving the pulpit than to staying.
I don't want to do anything to injure someone's faith. So lean in here, and I'll tell you the secret of how and why I get up and preach Sunday in and Sunday out despite all these fears. If you were near me I'd be whispering now. The secret is that God does this work through frail humans like me and you despite our fear. When I walk into the sanctuary in a few minutes I'll pray that same prayer as last Sunday: God, I've done what I can to prepare for this, the rest is up to You.