Last Tuesday I was asked to preach for yesterday's worship. The text and theme was a new challenge to me and I diligently set about preparing (as if you would expect anything else? Well, you might!) My normal practice is to preach onto paper while internalizing the meat of the sermon so that I can preach without notes. It takes a little while but the hope is that I can speak from the heart without paper being a barrier, and that I can adjust to responses and circumstances.
Halfway through worship yesterday, while we were singing, one of the fellowship crashed loudly to the floor. It turned out that he had suffered a mild heart attack (and happily we learn today he is responding well in hospital). At the time it seemed grim. A nurse in our congregation and others immediately rushed to him and an ambulance was called. Sensitively our pastor's young daughter led us through prayer and an ambulance arrived in under 5 minutes. (A great answer to prayer). As paramedics worked on him, the whole church was ushered out into the Winter sunshine to give privacy and (what turned out to be) an extended time for muted conversations.
Half an hour later we were back in church - now an hour since the service began. What to do? Scripture reading was preceded by prayer and then I was beckoned to preach a shorter sermon. Carol timed it at 14 mins. Yes, having it in the heart meant it was easier to adjust. Someone thanked me that it was just two points in a few minutes. Another wrote her delight at my being short! And it all makes you think, doesn't it? Would extra time have helped people hear a word from God? Does the Lord always need that prepared chunk of material to bless his people? Good questions.