First, a confession: As a pastor, I tend to allow myself to get busy or distracted all week long, and I often find myself on Friday morning in a coffee shop trying to mix up a sermon with less preparation and less organization than the task requires. It's like going to the refrigerator at 6:00pm and pulling out whatever ingredients I can find, then trying to put together a healthy meal from whatever is in there. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, this occasionally works, but the sermons are a bit slapdash, and this gives the congregation and the worship less respect and attention than it deserves. The sermons start sounding too similar to one another, they start to reflect my own biases and laziness WAY more than any sermon ever should.
This is why, as a preacher, I need community. I need accountability. I need this friend. Because she will force me to work harder, to wrestle, to really engage with the text not only from my perspective but through the eyes of the many diverse folks in the pews. She pushes, prods, and pokes holes in what seem like brilliant ideas. She challenges easy theologies. She shakes metaphors and illustrations to see if they can withstand the reality of people's lived experience. She will not let me get away with easy answers. She is the prophetic voice that calls me, and often our whole congregation, to account for our words and our actions. It's uncomfortable, it's difficult, but it is often what I need most.
If not for this friend, my sermons would often be finished a little earlier. But they would also be weaker. They would be straw-man sermons that could not hold up to the scrutiny of real people living in the real world.
All of us need these prophetic voices. We need someone who will tell us, with love, that we need to look again at who we are, what we say, and how we live. We need someone who has the courage to speak up and who cares about us enough to help us be better. Individuals, churches, communities, nations need these voices: they wake us from our lethargy and hypocrisy and call us to do better.
Today, even though my sermon is far from finished, I am thankful for a friend who cares enough about me, about this congregation, to challenge me. And I wish there were more people in the world with the courage and care to be prophetic.