The greatest challenge the preacher faces is, well, the preacher. Most of us are not confused about the text by the time we get to the pulpit. And we are not really struggling to make this passage of the Bible relevant for the congregation. What we don't know is how to overcome the feeling that we are frauds.
The best sermons are written not in the head but in the soul of the preacher. It is there that the Word of God has to meet all the other words we have heard all week. Some of those other words were pretty harsh. Like the ones an irate mother used to complain about the new youth minister, or the words we read in a letter that critiqued last week's sermon. But a parishioner's criticism always pales in comparison to the words we utter to ourselves.
No one is harder on preachers than preachers.
Sometimes the difficulty is that we aren't convinced we have done as good a job as we need to do on this sermon. At my congregation the pastors wear robes with long stoles (or flags, as my daughter ...1