Young married couples think they know each other pretty well. They'll say things like, "You always do that." Ironically, it's the older couples who keep saying, "I never knew that about you." That's because it takes time to see the mystery in each other.
Preaching invites people to see the sacred mystery of what God is doing with their lives. The longer a preacher stays in a particular congregation, the more his or her relationship with those people will change. This is part of the unfolding sacred mystery that keeps preaching exciting and fresh.
I've just begun my tenth year as the pastor and preacher of the congregation I serve, and here are a few of the changing dynamics I have noticed:
- The sermons eventually connect. When two new friends begin to talk to each other, and certainly when a newly married couple talks, they essentially have to lean forward in the chair to make sure that what they are hearing is really what the person meant to say. Similarly, it takes a while for a congregation to understand a preacher's vocabulary. You can almost see them straining to get it.
For example, I love to preach about God's grace, but by that term I am referring to God's initiatives in our lives. Sometimes that grace feels pretty good, and sometimes it feels severe, but since it comes from God it always leads to our salvation. When I first began preaching at our church, however, the congregation was accustomed to thinking about grace only in the sense of forgiveness of sins. It took a while for them to realize that I was stretching the term to include other mercies as well.