I am no orator...
For I have neither wit, nor words, worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech
To stir men's blood. I only speak right on.
I tell you that which you yourselves do know...
Julius Caesar (Act 3, scene 2, lines 229, 232-235
"...do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."
-- Matthew 10:19b-20
To many people the idea of talking to a group of people being a small group to a group of hundred or even thousands is enough to make them turn tail and run. How many times have we as Christians found ourselves in front of our peers or, in the scariest of circumstances, in front of people we don't know from Adam and given the unenviable task of talking to them and making some kind of sense.
That's pressure. Throw in the added "fun" of having to talk to a group about your faith or talk about a scripture verse and some people throw up the white flag and say "huh-uh, not me." I have read two entries about this very thing this week. Rev. Tom Chryst over at Preachrblog wrote about his first sermon he ever gave. He worked hard on it and it fell, well a bit flat. I know that feeling. I have had the opportunity to speak to fellow Christians about things of faith.
The first time I did it was at Camp Lone Star one Sunday morning. I don't even remember what I spoke about, but I remember I used two Power Rangers as examples. For some reason it ended up basically "be nice to each other and share your Power Rangers." It was bad. I don't remember anything about it other than being quite embarrassed.
But then there have been a couple times that Mattew 10:19 happened and man, oh man...
I can remember two distinct times when my mouth and the words coming from my mouth were not my own. They both took place when I was working at Camp Lone Star. The first happened at a night devotion. It was during the teen week, or "Discovery Week." I think it was a Wednesday night. The night before's devotion had been all Law, it was brutal and it made me mad. Talk about feeling hopeless. I knew that I had to do something because I knew that if I felt that way I did, I was darn sure the kids felt even worse. I was moody that whole day. I remember just clenching my jaw all day as I thought and prayed about what I was going to say. I wanted it to be simple. I got into the word and read and found a few passages that I thought might work. The night came I had a really big fire going in the fire pit. We were at one of my favorite night devotion sites: Sunset (I think that's what it is called). It is designed like a small ampitheatre. There is a big cross and a fire a deep fire pit and there are benches that are built into a hill that goes up from the pit. I remember starting out slow, tenative, stumbling over my words a bit and then suddenly everything came together. I rememember using my anger and fear from the last night's devotion and turning into something that wasn't mine. I don't think I was really there, it was spooky. The verses that I had picked out went out the window. They seemed to difficult. I needed these kids to come with me somewhere. I needed them to feel good about who Christ and what he did for them. I remember latching onto THE verse of the Bible: John 3:16. I latched onto it and just started to repeat it over and over again. It got louder and louder, it became a chant. The kids took it over. They needed to repeat that over and over again just as much as I needed it. We ministered to each other that night. Writing this I am transported to that night and I can't seem to get it right, the feeling I had that night... that "otherworldly, I'm not in charge anymore" feel. I actually have chills up and down my spine as I write this, it was that powerful to me. I remember just telling the kids how angry and upset I was about the devotion from the night before and I remember apologizing for it. But I kept hammering away at that wonderful verse. We yelled ourselves horse that night, at least I did. My throat was scratchy the next day, but I had purged whatever it was inside me that was angry. It was filled with something that to this day I can't explain. I don't like to use the word "possessed" to describe what happened that night, but it was something very close to it.
The other thing I remember is something much more quite, but no less powerful. It was a heart felt thank you. Every summer towards the end of the camp season we had a bar-b-que for a fundraiser and all the big muckity-muck supporters who had deep pockets were invited to a banquet at the local Knights of Columbus Hall. All that day I felt something that needed to be said, but I was not supposed to be presenting anything that night. But an opening came about. The person at the podium said something like "does anyone have anything to say?" And I stood up and started talking. Which was a bit strange because I don't usually say anything unless I absolutely have to. I have a stutter that I developed in high school that gets really bad when I'm very nervous, I don't talk in front of crowds very often because of it. But I just started thanking them for their generosity and telling them without them there would be no us and that with out God there would be no them. I even seem to recall using that exact bad grammar. This went on for a minute or two and remember being a bit choked up at the end of it. There was silence. I had said what needed to be said. It was out in the open. And I meant ever blessed word of it.
Its a scary thing to talk to fellow Christians, its even scarier to talk in front of fellow Lutherans. I have heard pastors say that they hated preaching in Chapel because they knew they were being critiqued hardcore. It made them nervous. I have often marveled a ministers and the fact that they have to "keep it fresh" every Sunday. I mean how many times have I heard the story of Lazurus or 10 talents? I know those stories by heart. I have heard at the very least 31 sermons (at least one for every year I've been alive). Its even harder for the layman to do.
I have gotten more confident about speaking in front of people, camp had a big part in that, I still stutter and stammer, but I get through it. I haven't had the opportunity to do it much lately, that's okay. It is still a struggle for me, I do it, but my heart beats so loudly as I do talk that sometimes I literally can not hear what I am saying. It is only afterward that I ask someone about it that I find out what I said.
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