We are suspending worship services at the church building for the time being. It is a temporary measure to help halt the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, I spent all day Thursday and Friday preaching to a camera, trying to get two online sermons ready to drop on Sunday.
They are not overly long, let me assure you; in fact, they are a good bit shorter than my usual. It’s the process that swallows up all the time. For example, I scrapped an entire sermon because my face was not in the shot. (Spare me the snide comments, please.) I had fits getting the slideshow to appear in frame and in focus. The camera shuts off automatically when I go too long (again, no snide comments), forcing me to redo the last few minutes.
Mostly, though, it’s this notion I have that, since I have the opportunity to do it again but better, that is what I should do. It’s like writing, actually. For instance, I pored over the first sentence of this paragraph quite a bit, looking for the best way to phrase it. If I had just been talking to you in person, I would have said it once and it would be done. But when it’s just me and the laptop, I tweak and tweak and tweak.
Preaching works the same way, as it turns out. If I stumbled over my words in a live sermon, I would just brush it off or turn it into a joke. But if I am in position to actually fix it, I want to fix it. Others’ expectations of me are heightened, as are my expectations of myself.
Ironically, I can’t help thinking that the live, unedited sermon would have been better. The more I try to clean my work up, the more things I find that need cleaning. That affects my attitude, which probably comes across in my work. When the 20th attempt is no better than the first, that can be discouraging.
What I’m saying, I suppose, is that striving for perfection is both a blessing and a curse. The things I do, particularly the things we do for God, should be done to the best of my ability. Good is better than poor, great is better than good, perfect is better than great. Do it with your might, as Solomon told us (Ecclesiastes 9:10). But the “perfect” I already are (Philippians 3:15) and the “perfect” I am trying to be (Philippians 3:12) are not the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ. That is the goal, but it is not completely achievable — not in this life, anyway. And instead of being a noble objective that calls me to better and better service, it can become a source of frustration and discouragement. That’s not good.
Sometimes it can be liberating to simply show up, do your best, and trust that my audience loves and supports me, warts and all. Certainly that is the case with our Heavenly Father. He bears with me in my weakness, simultaneously forgiving me and calling me to better performance. And His unwavering support does not embolden me to give less than my all; on the contrary, it shames me when I deliver less than my best, and it urges me to do better the next time.