I have never assumed that the people I talk to are so certain it is true that the question is not still very much alive for them. Is anyone ever that certain? I assume always that they want to know if it is true as much as I do myself. I assume that even the most religiously disillusioned and negative among them want it to be true as much as the religiously devout do--want to be shown it, want it to be made somehow flesh before their eyes, want to be able to rejoice in it for themselves. And it is because, at some level of their being, their wanting is so great that you must be so careful what you give them, and because your wanting to give it is so great, too. If you are any good at all with words--if you are any good at all as an actor, with an actor's power to move people, to fascinate people, to move them sometimes even to tearsÑyou have to be so careful not to make it just a performance, however powerful. You have to remember that it is not what you are saying that is important for them to believe in, but only God. You have to remember how Jesus consigned to the depths of the sea those who cause any who believe in him to sin and how one sin you might easily cause them is to believe in yourself instead. I wrote my sermons at great length and with great care. I learned to write in shorter, simpler sentences that I had in my books because a listener loses track otherwise. Though I never dared step into the pul-[PAGE BREAK]pit without everything, including the Lord's Prayer and the announcements, fully written out in front of me, I learned to be free enough of my manuscript to be able to read it without appearing to do so. I put on the best performance I could, in other words, and preached with all the eloquence I could muster, not only to them, of course, but also to myself because much of what preachers say they say to themselves, to keep their own spirits up, to answer their own souls' questionsÑthe sermon as whistling in the dark. There were times when I felt that something better and truer than my words was speaking through my words. There were times when I felt they were only words. There were times when the words seemed to fall dead from my lips and other times when I could see only too clearly how effective they were being. And maybe I entirely misjuged which time was which. I don't know. I know only that Barth is surely right when he says that no one risks the wrath of God more perilously than the minister in the pulpit, and yet at the same time I know that, as a minister, there are few places I would rather be. The excitement and challenge of it. The chance that something better than what you are can happen, that something more than you know can be spoken and heard.

source: Frederick Buechner, Now & Then p.70-71 tags: Apologetics, Communication, Hope, Ministry, Preaching