I preached my first sermon in 1987 . . . in my seminary preaching class. The preaching class and the sermon preaching were both required for graduation, otherwise I would have skipped out on the class and by-passed the experience.
I preached my first sermon in a church eleven years later. I was thirty-six years old and completely petrified. When the sermon was over, I vowed to myself to never again stand behind a pulpit. But the next year I broke that vow, and from that point forward, I have been preaching regularly–in the beginning just a few times a year, but more recently once or twice a month. Once I got past the paralyzing fear of those first experiences and found my preaching voice, I discovered that I love preaching. I love the preparation work. I love the study. I love rehearsing the sermon. But most of all, I love standing in the pulpit and telling the good news.
For the past month, I have been preaching every Sunday. On March 11, I became interim pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma. It has been a great joy to preach to this congregation that I have already fallen in love with. Last Sunday, NorthHaven had three services. I shared a brief meditation at the sunrise service and preached in our two worship services. After twenty years, I preached for the very first time ever on an Easter Sunday.
I have dreamed for years now about preaching on Easter, and I have been waiting and waiting. Pastors, as you might suspect, NEVER share their pulpits on Easter. Supply preachers and associate pastors best not get their hopes up about Easter preaching, but I always do. I always hope that this will be my year, and I must confess that I have suffered from Easter-pulpit envy. My laments during Lent have focused on my lack of a pulpit from which to preach the good news on the most significant day on the Christian calendar. But this year. This year it happened. I had a pulpit on Easter!
So what does a preacher do when she finally has an Easter opportunity? She panics. I had so much to say. I had so many ideas, and I had so much work to do. I had so much! I pulled out all my old notes from seminary and doctoral classes. I read through a stack of commentaries. I looked at blogs and online posts about Easter. I read Easter sermons by my favorite preachers. I talked to preacher friends about their sermons. I finally figured out that I needed to stop thinking and researching and get busy writing, but my problem was that I had twenty years worth of things to say about the resurrection and only twenty minutes to say them.
My sermon finally came together, and I preached it with twenty years worth of built-up passion and energy. Preaching on Easter was a gift–a welcomed gift of grace–one I won’t soon forget. But in these past few days as I have pondered, I have decided that there will never be enough Easter Sundays to say all that could be said about the resurrection, about new life in Christ, about victory over death, about hope. Preaching Easter is too big a task for just one day. But then again, one Easter Sunday is enough to preach THE good news that “He is Risen.”
Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.