Writing sermons brings a myriad of emotions for me: fear, excitement, nervousness, and anticipation. Will I inspire, challenge, comfort, educate, or transform those listening? Will I reach one person with my message?
The rabbi and congregation are in a relationship, a dance, between what one needs to hear and what I feel called to say. I draw inspiration from my favorite piece of Jewish liturgy, “ha’m’chadesh b’tuvo b’chol yom tamid ma’aseh bereshit,” “In goodness, God renews the works of creation each and every day.” I love these words which I pray every morning because they remind me that each day, each moment is an opportunity for newness.
The blank screen that unfolds before each sermon is my darkness - formless and void. And then I begin to create. As I sit down to write, I am aware of this creation teaching, for it calls me to find the message needed for the moment.
I always start with trepidation for what truly needs to be heard in any given year. I listen for the voices inside of me, sometimes screaming and sometimes whispering, telling me what that message might be. And most often, if I am tuned into myself, it is a message that I myself most need to hear. I have found that if I speak from my heart, and to my heart, remembering the message of creating anew each day, each year, others will benefit as well.
One doesn’t need to agree with me, for sure, but I strive for inspiration, transformation; I strive to be a good dance partner. And, as long as God is at my center, I usually can find my way. And on those occasions when I don’t, I beg forgiveness and try to listen harder next time.
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater is the spiritual leader of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. www.pjtc.net