The email that invited me to preach appeared in my inbox on September 15th. Like numerous other emails, the subject was convention planning; and the email was from the Standing Committee President, who is also a Priest from the Diocese of Western Michigan. We were just 45 days away from the second joint convention of the Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan. I had expected this email to include the final plan for the convention. As the ecclesiastical authority, both Presidents would chair the convention. My name is Janet Huff-Worvie, and I am a member of the fourth order and past Standing Committee President of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan (2019-2021).
I was surprised to discover the email was not about the plan. What the email was about was preaching. It read like this, “an idea floated for the convention Eucharist is having me preside, and you preach. Do you preach? Is that something you’d be interested in?”
So how does a lay leader who always desired to preach respond to this request? I replied, “I would love to preach, but there is something you should know I have never preached before.” My desire to preach was met with support, full of love and grace. Even though the response was positive and encouraging, I shopped for answers. I went looking for someone to tell me no, you should not do this. I heard you can do this, and remember as we follow Jesus, God doesn’t call us to do small things; he calls us to do BIG things.
During this prayerful time, I landed on the Episcopal Preaching Foundation web page. I went to the sermons tab, and the first sermon I watched was from The Rev. Susan Ironside. Mother Susan’s sermon moved me and encouraged me despite my fear. To this day, I am sure she was speaking directly to me when she said, “you are brave, and we are thankful for that because the people are starving; you give them something to eat.”
Mother Susan’s sermon helped me understand that the invitation to preach was a gift that I was to give away in the form of a sermon. I needed to give them something to eat. It took me two weeks to write and another week to make edits. Most of my initial thoughts ended up on the cutting room floor, but finally, my sermon came together word by word. The words sometimes came to me in the middle of the night, other times they came to me in line at the supermarket, and more than once, I found myself praying and writing in my office even though I had other plans. Through it all, I found immense comfort in prayer and those willing to walk with me as I prepared. I am incredibly grateful to those clergy who reviewed my sermon, ensuring it was theologically sound, had seamless transitions, and most importantly, was about Jesus.
On October 30th, I shared my interpretation of the gospel reading with approximately 400 people. On this day, I realized that we do not preach for approval, but instead, we preach to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Janet Huff-Worvie can be reached at email@example.com.