What I am learning by stepping out in faith and preaching

Yesterday, July 18, 2021, I preached my first ever in-person sermon. The experience was so much better than I ever imagined it would be, and the last possible thing I thought I would ever do in this life. I was shy, and in many ways I still am. It is far from easy. I would bolt if I felt like there was any life for me if I did. Rev. Dr. Freddy Haynes said our calling will lead us to the Garden of Gethsemane. We will want out. It takes serious praying and sweating blood to say yes to God. And there is a lot of frustration when the people you need the most in your life seem to be sleeping (disciples).

When I was fed up with women being pushed out of church leadership because I saw women’s experiences in political life did not matter, I was not looking to preach about it. But when I saw how awful some theobros were acting, I realized I might be called to it. Not what I was looking for. Actually, this is the one thing I did not want to do when I went to seminary. I told the congregation this yesterday, too. But I think I have a unique voice to speak into a moment that needs a voice like mine. I am not saying this to be self-aggrandizing. None of this happened because of anything I did other than respond to Jesus who I felt approach me in my moment of deepest grief and I wanted to live. I like how Bonhoeffer puts in his book, “Cost of Discipleship,” –Jesus comes to us by grace, but it is our job to say yes and go immediately where Jesus leads. I had to leave a lot of what I had always known to get to where I am today. And it is pure joy in this chaos. Relationship with God and humans are way deeper than I ever knew before.

I have been shocked by the response to my preaching, especially by people who are not in leadership. It has been received so well and they hear me. I have been thanked because I see people and give voice to the forgotten. I get critiqued more by people who have been doing it a while because I am not polished.

Now let me tell you a little about my sermon experience.

The reason I preached on Mark 14, “The Anointing at Bethany,” is because this story is a story that speaks to our place and time. It is about a deeper seeing and knowing. I am a 4 on the enneagram and we get a bad rap for wanting to be unique and out of the box. This is a mischaracterization of 4s. Yes, 4s want to feel special (don’t we all), but it is not just for us—it is for everybody. Most 4s I know grew up feeling unseen and over-criticized. And this is what I am seeing happening in our society too. We are talking over each other and not listening. Or if we do hear, we are not letting it hit our heart to hear the deeper cry/joy and respond in solidarity. I share my story so others will too. We do not know our stories apart from each other. There is life on the other side of pain. Healing is hard work. It can feel violent. This is the story of the cross—death, then life. First the pain, then the rising as Glennon Doyle says. This is what the future of the church is going to look like. There is so much spiritual trauma because we never learned how to be human. We have been a used and abused people working so hard for the money and the win to prove our worth. We do not rest and the earth is not getting any rest from it. Bad combo.

I wish my live sermon is the one that was on YouTube. It is better with new insights I did not have when I recorded it. But my recorded sermon was on the same day I had a serious anxiety attack. I am proud of myself. I am learning to cope with the mental health issues I face, and it is because I have done (and still doing) the hard work to learn to live with it and let it benefit me instead of hinder me. But I could not do this without my community. A community that saw me and has loved me beyond what I can do for them. They want me whole and well first and foremost. They are true friends. Wilshire is the first place I walked into where I did not feel like I was competing with anybody. I found myself never wanting to leave Wilshire when I got there because it was a place that felt like relief for the first time that was not my backyard. Now there are people who I can see and hug and feel the love of God in the same way I felt God loving me back together in my backyard. This experience is why I said yes to seminary and now I am saying yes to preaching.

I have two significant insights that came to me after the recording. The broken candle was God and science. God is science too. I needed a story to help me illustrate what I wanted to focus on in Mark-the woman breaking the jar and the oil spilling everywhere. Mark is the only gospel that talks about the jar breaking and how much it cost. My candle breaking gave me the shock (the crowd reaction), then I was transported into the story watching my candle wax flow all over the table onto the ground. This was a vision of radical faith in God–it looks like breaking and waste, but it is turning into an overflow of abundance.

The breaking is also science because the breaking can be explained by the heat outside and glass expands in the heat. But isn’t the ordinary here to be used by God? I am sure the bush Moses saw was normally seen as an ordinary bush. He just saw it differently that day because God was trying to get his attention and he was paying attention in that moment. I related this to getting a vaccine in a time Covid is here. God did not send us Covid. God sends us life. A vaccine is an avenue towards life. Ordinary life is the miracle that can lead us to abundant life.

Then, the morning of my sermon, I was listening to Glennon’s podcast, “We Can Do Hard Things,” again. She said there is something about breaking that invites us to be fully human. That was the perfect quote I needed to describe what I believe was happening to the woman. She was breaking in a culture of death–the jar represented her breaking. But she saw the life that was in Jesus and knew it was fleeting moment she would see him face-to-face, but that fleeting moment was abundance. The crowd scoffed and Jesus told them to leave her alone. Jesus, man, he is the best. We need Jesus to scream to the whole world right now: LEAVE HER ALONE. SHE HAS DONE A GOOD THING FOR ME! Jesus sees women. There has not been a discipleship problem with women. Women have been consistently choosing life. Old Testament and New. Hebrew and Egyptian women were choosing life. Without women, there would be no Exodus. Mary and this unnamed woman in Mark are two examples of where women were saying yes to God in impossible circumstances. They are representing the human response to God and reminding us that it is good to be human. Jesus reveals that God wants to be in deep relationship with us and include us in the good news story that will remember us every time the gospel is preached. This woman represents humanity. Our experiences are part of what it means to be human. We speak both the joy and the pain and find life.

When I got to the church and let them know I was nervous. One of the ladies there told me this: Don’t be nervous. We are country folk. We just want you to speak in a language we understand. I can do that. I also remember what it is like to be laity and the knowledge many of us are denied because people more educated think it is common knowledge. It is not. I was talking to one of my other friends the other day and she told me this: This sounds new to me. Maybe we always knew this, but it sounds new to me. Yes! I feel like we are in an Amos 8:11 moment. We have been in a famine from hearing the words of the Lord, but these words are breaking in now and making us tell the truth. The truth about our Christian history and the truth about our American history. There are people’s experiences missing from the story we have telling. And it is okay to feel things about having to change the story as we once knew it to include the missing stories. Feelings, all of them, are okay and information to learn from too. Denying truth is the rot. I received so many hugs and encouragement after that sermon. I will never forget it as long as I live.

People have poured their wisdom into me to make yesterday possible. I quoted so many people, talked about my church, school, and friends. By working with Doug Haney, I learned how to sing a little bit and I sang this song out loud on my way there to work on my voice for preaching. Of course it is Elsa, “Show Yourself.” These are just some of the lyrics.


I’ve never felt so certain
All my life I’ve been torn
But I’m here for a reason
Could it be the reason I was born?
I have always been so different
Normal rules did not apply
Is this the day?
Are you the way?
I finally find out why!

Show yourself
I’m no longer trembling
Here I am
I’ve come so far
You are the answer I’ve waited for
All of my life
Oh, show yourself
Let me see who you are


I’ve never felt so certain
All my life I’ve been torn
But I’m here for a reason
Could it be the reason I was born?
I have always been so different
Normal rules did not apply
Is this the day?
Are you the way?
I finally find out why!

Show yourself
I’m no longer trembling
Here I am
I’ve come so far
You are the answer I’ve waited for
All of my life
Oh, show yourself
Let me see who you are

Then Ashley Robinson sent me a song called “Rainbow” by Kesha. These words.

“I can’t lose hope, what’s left of my heart’s still made of gold”

Me on the day of my first in-person preaching assignment.
Ashley made me stand in the pulpit when I visited with her. I had to tell myself every day that I belong here.
Coach Doug, Music/Associate Pastor, gave me voice lessons and opened me in even more new ways. Singing is even more vulnerable for me than preaching!
Practicing with my family the night before
Happy Dance because the sermon felt good and so did I
The candle that I thought was wasted is now one of my most treasured possessions now.

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