Sheelah, thank you for your comments, and questions, which I very much appreciate. I could not attach this response to your questions, so I copied them below my answer.
RICH’S ANSWER: Parts of some long ago sermons stick in my mind as if the preacher had just delivered them. Father Bob gave one of those messages in the 1990s where he shared his favorite Bible verse, Romans 5:8 “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
Any preparations of mine for preaching begin with Romans 5:8 in mind. I see it as congruent with James’s teaching regarding “ex-cons” and “wounded people.” The opportunity to follow Father Bob in our pulpit, in any church’s pulpit, is truly humbling in a sense of humility that I’ve never before encountered. Rather than a meek response to a high challenge, now I find humility a simultaneously joyful, awe-inspiring and energizing response that creates a sense of eager anticipation to participate in an ongoing, communal event that transcends ego and yet requires a person to bring forward its verbal message.
I hope I’m answering your question. Your phrase “trust but verify” resonates with my former career as a revenue agent. That approach can be productive, but I don’t think it applies to religious leaders and religious teachings. Not that I don’t discriminate among religious leaders and teachings. While some appeal more than others, I listen to all and respond to those who intersect with my life keeping an open mind because what is peripheral now may become integral at a later day.
SHEELAH’S COMMENTS & QUESTIONS: Congratulations on the opportunity to preach Rich, this is certainly justly deserved! I am not quite sure, however, how you are addressing the question concerning the insights and content from the previous session, which discusses the theme of freeing us from idolatry, in particular of rules and clerical leadership. Do you mean that the very serious preparation that you speak of is a truly humble way of approaching the task? In referring to the ‘officers’ in the prison as all being “ex cons” James implies that we are all wounded people and that the role of the preacher is to be a servant of the people? OR that a “trust but verify” attitude towards religious leaders and religious teachings is a healthy attitude? Can you enlarge a little on your thoughts in this post? I am very interested to understand your meaning here.