Quarterbacking the Big Game

Quarterbacking the Big Game April 9, 2007

The air was crisp, the sun was bright, the crowd was large and energetic. It was worship on Easter Sunday, of course!

Easter Sunday, the Super Bowl of Preaching, my friend Jim calls it, has unnerved me from the very first Sunday I celebrated Easter up front, looking out over the crowd, responsible in some way for leading worship.
I remember processing my thoughts with my boss, the Senior Pastor, the Monday after my first Easter on a church staff. Strangely, I found myself feeling . . . angry. I recall Steven looking at me incredulously (which, as he will tell you, was not really all that unusual over the course of our work together). Yes, I told him, I feel angry. I couldn’t really put it into words exactly, except to say that my job is to help create and build community all year long. When I looked out and saw all those people attending worship, people I didn’t know and strongly suspected I would not see again until Christmas, if not Easter next year, I got mad.

“This is not the church!” I remember thinking. Church is being here Sunday in and Sunday out, all year long, making a commitment to community, not just dropping in because you feel guilty, or your mom is visiting, or it’s the culturally expected thing to do.

Yes, I said that day that I felt rather used and angry.

“You might want to work on that,” Steven told me.

As it turns out that was good advice, since no matter how mad I felt, the Easter phenomenon of multiplying worshippers never changes.

But now that I am preaching the sermon on the Super Bowl of Preaching, my perspective has changed a little bit.

Instead of feeling angry at all the visitors, I’ve felt more pressure . . . pressure to perform for folks who give church a one-shot-a-year chance to impress . . . pressure to answer the question: What to say? What to say on this rare opportunity to preach a message someone needs to hear . . . ?

What if I run the wrong play, throw an interception, fumble the ball?

Despite the anxiety of playing the biggest game of the year in front of a large crowd, the thing that saves me every Easter now is the story. Forget deep theology; forget textual criticism. Leave the word studies in the study and, for heaven’s sake, ditch the corny illustrations you got in your in-box all week. No matter what the theological challenges of the day may be, no matter the pressure to perform, in the end it’s the story that matters.

And people come to church on Easter, even if that’s the only time they attend all year long, to hear that story. The hope and freedom of the story stands on its own, which could, in fact, make this the easiest sermon of the whole year!

This was my Easter revelation, though sad to say it took about 10 years of serving on a church staff to come to this realization.

I looked out over that crowd yesterday morning and saw, not people who are generally too lazy to get up on Sunday mornings every week, but people who took the time to find a place of worship, get dressed up and try something new . . . in a culture where it would have been just as acceptable to trot on down to the White House lawn and chase some Easter eggs.

They came because, on some level, they wanted to hear the story.

My job is still to help create and build community all year long, but I’m no longer angry and I’ve given up feeling performance anxiety. All those folks who come to church on Easter Sunday (the Super Bowl of preaching) come to hear the story because on some level (family, tradition, culture, whatever) the story touches their lives.

I’ve finally realized that the best thing I could do on Easter Sunday is to leave the preaching acrobatics alone and just tell the story. The whole show might not be a total success every single year, but I’m learning.

Tell the story, then pitch the ball to the Spirit of God, who can certainly take the power and hope of the resurrection from the pulpit all the way into the day to day lives of people looking for hope.

"Well, you savor your specialness!"

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  • Will

    Hi Amy

    Yes Easter Sunday look like it was the best. The Choir Sounded great, the reading of the scripter was great, The preaching… was great.

    “First, God. God is the subject of life. God is founational for living.” “God not as an option,
    not a weekend, not center and circumference, But First and at last GOD GOD GOD” I taken some of the word’s of The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.”

    I like this year at Easter day at the choir. I’m not trying to shoot a duck out of the air. But when the choir has it’s own people in singing. The Sound, sounds great. Because the men and women work
    with the music all year. Finding that the sound together bringing out the wright notes out.

    But it’s great that some people do show up to sing. But in the long run. Seeing the out come of Easter Sunday. If anyone do show to help. I think it take more then five to six hour of choir practice to help.

    You’re Friend
    Will

  • Will

    Hi Amy

    Yes Easter Sunday look like it was the best. The Choir Sounded great, the reading of the scripter was great, The preaching… was great.

    “First, God. God is the subject of life. God is founational for living.” “God not as an option,
    not a weekend, not center and circumference, But First and at last GOD GOD GOD” I taken some of the word’s of The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.”

    I like this year at Easter day at the choir. I’m not trying to shoot a duck out of the air. But when the choir has it’s own people in singing. The Sound, sounds great. Because the men and women work
    with the music all year. Finding that the sound together bringing out the wright notes out.

    But it’s great that some people do show up to sing. But in the long run. Seeing the out come of Easter Sunday. If anyone do show to help. I think it take more then five to six hour of choir practice to help.

    You’re Friend
    Will

  • revrachel

    Ah, but you mixed your sports metaphors there at the end. Shouldn’t it be “punt the ball” to God, or something like that? Yeah, like I know…:) I hope it was a wonderful Easter Sunday!

  • revrachel

    Ah, but you mixed your sports metaphors there at the end. Shouldn’t it be “punt the ball” to God, or something like that? Yeah, like I know…:) I hope it was a wonderful Easter Sunday!

  • Amy

    I checked with Hayden, age 13, who told me Quarterbacks do pitch the ball (like, toss, right?) but I knew I was headed into dangerous territory when I started talking about sports . . . !

  • Amy

    I checked with Hayden, age 13, who told me Quarterbacks do pitch the ball (like, toss, right?) but I knew I was headed into dangerous territory when I started talking about sports . . . !

  • Floyd Saner

    Amy,
    Thanks for an honest perspective on Easter Sunday from the other side of the pulpit. The frank way in which you express your feelings and experiences is what makes this blog so interesting.

    I can’t help but ask, is the sports metaphor your way to “…discover some, even just a tiny little bit, of personal interest in sports so I might share the enthusiasm of a growing group of family members.?” ref: “I Wish I Could” blog entry

  • Floyd Saner

    Amy,
    Thanks for an honest perspective on Easter Sunday from the other side of the pulpit. The frank way in which you express your feelings and experiences is what makes this blog so interesting.

    I can’t help but ask, is the sports metaphor your way to “…discover some, even just a tiny little bit, of personal interest in sports so I might share the enthusiasm of a growing group of family members.?” ref: “I Wish I Could” blog entry

  • Onajourney2b

    lol…yes you can pitch toss or pass the ball…i am proud of this integration of metaphors…

    someone once told me the difference is most people don’t invest in their long game-just their short one. How they pass the ball when its all on the line as opposed in a game of touch. They don’t understand that the in between is what prepares them…

    and yet there is that tricky idea of grace…we are all gettin tickets to the game-it just depends where we sit…and i have a feeling that the last will be on the field…and the first up in the nosebleed…oh the irony…

    love you

  • Onajourney2b

    lol…yes you can pitch toss or pass the ball…i am proud of this integration of metaphors…

    someone once told me the difference is most people don’t invest in their long game-just their short one. How they pass the ball when its all on the line as opposed in a game of touch. They don’t understand that the in between is what prepares them…

    and yet there is that tricky idea of grace…we are all gettin tickets to the game-it just depends where we sit…and i have a feeling that the last will be on the field…and the first up in the nosebleed…oh the irony…

    love you

  • Tripp Hudgins

    Amy,

    This is great. I love this post. I preached my very first Easter Sunday sermon this past Sunday. And it is indeed the Big Game.

    Christmas Eve has the same character at Community Church. All of these people…I try to think of it in terms of embrace. As the pastor, I am to embrace the world and not just all who “get it.” That is a tall order.

    But these days, I imagine every Sunday is populated with people who don’t get the story and need to hear it again and again.

    I am likely wrong. But this helps relieve my anxiety. And isn’t that what it is all about?

  • Tripp Hudgins

    Amy,

    This is great. I love this post. I preached my very first Easter Sunday sermon this past Sunday. And it is indeed the Big Game.

    Christmas Eve has the same character at Community Church. All of these people…I try to think of it in terms of embrace. As the pastor, I am to embrace the world and not just all who “get it.” That is a tall order.

    But these days, I imagine every Sunday is populated with people who don’t get the story and need to hear it again and again.

    I am likely wrong. But this helps relieve my anxiety. And isn’t that what it is all about?

  • Anonymous

    Pastor Amy,

    I was goggling a local church here in Miami Lakes, Florida when I found your site, Talk with the Preacher. I read everything you had on-line and most of the comments. I wanted to see how your lent was and wanted to tell you I am happy you are no longer angry about use fair weather church go’ers. I was raised in a very strict pentacostal church in NY and continued to attend regularly until I had my own children. I could not stand the distraction they caused during the service or taking then to the nursery. So I stopped attending, not that I have stop my communication with the Lord. I think he is tired of hearing my prayers or other’s prayers for me. Everyone has a reason they stopped going. You sound like a wonderful Pastor and as long a you remember we are all lost sheep and you help us find our way you will continue to be wonderful. Remember, they all had a choice and they choose your church, there has to be a reason for that. I will be finding a new church for this sunday so that by Christmas I am no longer a new face in the crowd, I would not want to anger the Pastor. May God continue to bless you and what seem like a wonderful congregation.

    Thank you for sharing you story.

    Lost Sheep in Miami Lakes, Florida

  • Anonymous

    Pastor Amy,

    I was goggling a local church here in Miami Lakes, Florida when I found your site, Talk with the Preacher. I read everything you had on-line and most of the comments. I wanted to see how your lent was and wanted to tell you I am happy you are no longer angry about use fair weather church go’ers. I was raised in a very strict pentacostal church in NY and continued to attend regularly until I had my own children. I could not stand the distraction they caused during the service or taking then to the nursery. So I stopped attending, not that I have stop my communication with the Lord. I think he is tired of hearing my prayers or other’s prayers for me. Everyone has a reason they stopped going. You sound like a wonderful Pastor and as long a you remember we are all lost sheep and you help us find our way you will continue to be wonderful. Remember, they all had a choice and they choose your church, there has to be a reason for that. I will be finding a new church for this sunday so that by Christmas I am no longer a new face in the crowd, I would not want to anger the Pastor. May God continue to bless you and what seem like a wonderful congregation.

    Thank you for sharing you story.

    Lost Sheep in Miami Lakes, Florida

  • Anonymous

    Pastor Amy,

    I was goggling a local church here in Miami Lakes, Florida when I found your site, Talk with the Preacher. I read everything you had on-line and most of the comments. I wanted to see how your lent was and wanted to tell you I am happy you are no longer angry about use fair weather church go’ers. I was raised in a very strict pentacostal church in NY and continued to attend regularly until I had my own children. I could not stand the distraction they caused during the service or taking then to the nursery. So I stopped attending, not that I have stop my communication with the Lord. I think he is tired of hearing my prayers or other’s prayers for me. Everyone has a reason they stopped going. You sound like a wonderful Pastor and as long a you remember we are all lost sheep and you help us find our way you will continue to be wonderful. Remember, they all had a choice and they choose your church, there has to be a reason for that. I will be finding a new church for this sunday so that by Christmas I am no longer a new face in the crowd, I would not want to anger the Pastor. May God continue to bless you and what seem like a wonderful congregation.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Lost Sheep in Miami Lakes, Florida

  • Anonymous

    Pastor Amy,

    I was goggling a local church here in Miami Lakes, Florida when I found your site, Talk with the Preacher. I read everything you had on-line and most of the comments. I wanted to see how your lent was and wanted to tell you I am happy you are no longer angry about use fair weather church go’ers. I was raised in a very strict pentacostal church in NY and continued to attend regularly until I had my own children. I could not stand the distraction they caused during the service or taking then to the nursery. So I stopped attending, not that I have stop my communication with the Lord. I think he is tired of hearing my prayers or other’s prayers for me. Everyone has a reason they stopped going. You sound like a wonderful Pastor and as long a you remember we are all lost sheep and you help us find our way you will continue to be wonderful. Remember, they all had a choice and they choose your church, there has to be a reason for that. I will be finding a new church for this sunday so that by Christmas I am no longer a new face in the crowd, I would not want to anger the Pastor. May God continue to bless you and what seem like a wonderful congregation.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Lost Sheep in Miami Lakes, Florida

  • Gary Long

    Take heart, my friend. At least you didn’t do what I did in my own similar Easter anger this past weekend:

    Just before the benediction, I uttered, “I’m so glad to see new and old friends among us today. I’m glad to see those of you whom I’ve not seen in a while. I wish you a Merry Christmas!”

    Love your blog, keep up the good God work.

  • Gary Long

    Take heart, my friend. At least you didn’t do what I did in my own similar Easter anger this past weekend:

    Just before the benediction, I uttered, “I’m so glad to see new and old friends among us today. I’m glad to see those of you whom I’ve not seen in a while. I wish you a Merry Christmas!”

    Love your blog, keep up the good God work.