Sermon, Interrupted

About every twelve months or so, we have a medical emergency during one of the worship gatherings at Good Shepherd.

Over the years, we have had mild strokes, cardiac distresses, diabetic episodes, and fainting spells.

It happened again yesterday at 11:30, as a dear woman lost consciousness just as I began the sermon.

So what do you do as a preacher?

Well, the worst thing you can do is pretend it’s not happening.

The best thing you can do is remember your sermon is not the most important thing in the world in that particular moment; helping a woman get restored to health is.

So I stopped the sermon as soon as I noticed the activity around our friend, asked any medical personnel in the room to come forward to offer assistance,  invited the rest of the congregation to pray over the situation, and confirmed that staff had called 911.

The medical professionals in the room were superb — quick on their feet, unselfish in their attitudes, and professional in their actions.  They stabilized the patient and kept her family calm until the EMS crew arrived.

As part of the prayer, I also invited the people in the room to point their palms towards the ailing woman and those working on her.  Linking a mental activity such as prayer with the physical action of palm pointing seems to help with focus and passion.

A sermon interrupted by a medical emergency is a marvelous opportunity to test what kind of community you are creating.  In this case, the people of Good Shepherd showed themselves again to be a people of prayer, patience, and compassion.  I couldn’t be more proud.

The woman’s condition stabilized and improved as we prayed.  Eventually, the EMS team entered the Worship Center, placed our Good Shepherd friend on a gurney, and whisked her away to a local hospital where, as of this morning, she rests comfortably.

I remained on the floor (instead of returning to the elevated platform) and delivered a truncated version of the sermon I’d started fifteen minutes earlier.  It was much more casual and conversational than what I had preached at 8:30 and 10:00, but I pray it was a form that fit the moment.

Most importantly for the overall theme of the day, we were still able to hand out our Upgrade CD — an audio recording of thirteen different people from the church reading the book of Hebrews out loud.  The CD is a way to emphasis Sunday’s bottom line from Hebrews 2:1:  The Only Savior Demands The Greatest Attention.

That’s a point that remains true — medical emergency or not.