An effective preacher must be two places at once.
A whole lot of teaching and training has been devoted to helping a preacher become fully present to his congregation. Preparation includes study, meditation, formulation, and polishing of words until our message becomes a focused and practical help for those that hear, an offering worthy of the words (and God) we are representing. I believe that an adequately prepared preacher is ready to make eye contact, both because God’s words have already riven their holy tracks through the hypocrisy in his own heart, enabling him to be authentic; and also because he knows his stuff well enough not to be overly tied down by his notes. At this point, we’re supposed to let go of trying to get it just right and focus instead on making sure we leave our heart there on the altar, bleeding in full view of angels and parishioner alike.
But I must also be fully present to God when I preach, and this is the part I often forget—which is more than too bad, because it’s the primary thing. The best way I can describe being present to God is to be fully aware of God’s presence, open to his voice, watching for his leading, dependent on his inspiration and work by his Spirit.
Doing this while being present to the congregation is a lot like NOT wearing 3D glasses to a 3D feature. If you’ve ever tried taking 3D glasses off during a 3D movie (like I did several times during Avatar recently), you know what I mean; the blues separate from the reds even just a hairsbreadth and you’re aware that you are watching two things at once, two things that merge to become one when you wear the unsightly goggles. There is no competition between the two, but rather a perfect harmony that enhances your viewing experience.
The Christian’s path is not one or the other, blue or red. It’s both. The call is to mature to the point where we can see both at the same time, or perhaps even better, to let them become one and enjoy the clarity that brings. To be goggle people.
When I’m walking in tune with Jesus, it’s because I’m fully owning the goggles. But to be honest, after awhile the goggles become normal and I forget that the picture is actually made up of two sets of images, the reds and the blues. I forget that the divine reds must merge with my human blues to make the picture come to life.
Right now I’m goggle-less, seeing double. Reds and blues are everywhere. But I’m glad. I need to see double, to be reminded of this truth:
I must stand in two places at once.
And not, by the way, just for preaching. For life. For always.