There have been countless times when I found myself struggling to write a sermon and even more disappointed with what I eventually produced. Unable to create an idea of my own, I often preached other people's sermons and sought validation from the very preachers whose sermons left me feeling inadequate and incompetent when compared with my own work. Luckily, around that same time, my boss, Ms. Cherizna Jean-Marie was made aware of my distress and assured me, "Every seminarian is finding their voice." This statement was a breath of fresh air to my soul. However, the current situation I am experiencing in the Virgin and Caribbean Islands has augmented my preaching and theological reflections. My thinking and manuscripts are developing before my eyes. My experiences in St. Kitts and Antigua range from a night when I ate only a single piece of bread for dinner, to watching a frog run through the cold tub of water I had to use to bathe, to sharing an unstable bed as well as my room with the lizards stationed on my walls. My colleague, Brian Cash, reminded me to "endure hardship like a good soldier," which is found in 2 Timothy 2:3. This is exactly what I am doing on this trip. For we have realized, if a preacher never experiences unpleasant incidents, he or she will not have powerful application.
I find that the class Greek for Preachers, which I am taking now, is helping me in my sermon preparation. I learned that the Greek language needs to be obligatory in sermon preparation. Not only must it occur but one needs it when they run into texts that present difficulties. When the text presents problems that one doesn't understand, the Greek translation usually reveals the answer to the problem. Since I have added in-depth Greek research to my sermon preparation, I find that my sermons have become more complex and less embryonic; this gives the people to whom I preach much more insight to take home and I make more of an impact when I preach.
While on the island of St. Kitts, Pastor Erwin Woodley took me to the side of the island where the wealthy resided and the tourist hotel was located. The hotel certainly looked like a place where I wanted to lay my head and a place that would be full of exuberant activities. However, I was called there for a mission to preach the gospel and assimilate with the people who I share the gospel with. I remember asking God years ago to allow me to spread God's word to youth around the world. When I asked, I did not know what I was asking God for. I did not know how difficult this task would be. I realize that one must watch what they ask God for because usually God doesn't give great things during comfort. God gives the gems and jewels of life at the expense of misfortune and perplexing missions. The tragedy in our world is that we want to experience God's glory without experiencing the gloom.
The past week in Antigua, I encountered not having Internet for three days. I felt disconnected from the world and in a helpless state. I couldn't interact with friends, classmates and family from home. The only Being that was available to talk to me was God. Sometimes God will set up times that we have no choice but to interact and dwell with Him. In this time, I prayed more than I have in the past and read many pages from Dr. Howard Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited and With Head and Heart. This time allowed me to become closer to God and gain knowledge from one of the greatest scholars to ever live. I find that some experiences we face in life are just a set-up to grow up. God has a way of maturing us in ways that one doesn't expect will mature them. This trip has been an incubator for learning that will be sacred and sound for the rest of my life.
I am realizing that I should not preach something that I have not lived. God is making me live what I already preached and continue to preach. I have a sermon titled "Peace in the Valley" from Psalm 23 and God is making me realize how difficult it is to have peace during distasteful life experiences. Dr. Howard Thurman says in With Head and Heart, "All life, indeed all experience, is heavy with meaning, with particular significance." I certainly believe that this experience that I find myself confined to has a particular significance. Even though I am not aware what the significance is, I will await the blessings that will spring from this experience. What one experiences is what makes them. If one never experiences any pivotal moments they have not lived.