This Sunday, I'm supply preaching at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Brewton, AL. I've supplied a couple of times over the past couple of years: filling in for a sick colleague, a random Sunday evening service, the usual. Every time I supply preach, I run into the same problem - my mind goes blank.
I read the lessons appointed for Sunday this morning, like I do every Monday morning, but this time, I'm at a loss. It isn't because there isn't anything interesting to say, there is always something to preach, Stephen gets martyred on the Sunday the Rev. Steven Pankey preaches at St. Stephen's Church for crying out loud! The reason I'm drawing a blank is because the people of St. Stephen's are a blank slate to me. I only really know one member, who served as a facilitator for the Fresh Start program I attended three years ago. I knew their former Rector, though not very well, from the same Fresh Start experience. I have a vague sense of how the relationship ended, but, in all reality, I have no idea what this collection of souls in the Body of Christ needs to hear this Sunday.
Do I comfort the disturbed?
Do I disturb the comfortable?
Do I preach with the Bible in one hand and CNN.com in the other?
To make matters worse, its Youth Sunday! Can I really preach the angry mob stoning Stephen to death while a young Saul holds coats and nods approvingly?
I have a deep respect for my brothers and sisters who do this supply priest thing on a regular basis. It is hard, much harder than preaching to a community that one knows intimately and has walked with for years. Prayers are appreciated this week, I could use all the help I can get.