(this piece was found in the middle of a sermon already in progress following some other random and off topic thoughts)
. . . . as long as I’m in sidebar mode, a bit about my process. Obviously, I spend time during the week pulling books off my shelves and searching through them for ways to understand what I’m reading. I spend possibly an equal amount of time on the internet doing pretty much the same thing, researching and chatting with other preachers about what on earth we’re going to do with this one. Saturday morning I set all the sources I plan to use on my desk and settle down in my home work space for the duration - that is, for as long as I can keep coming up with words that I think I can use. All around me are other items that help me work - candles, books of prayers and stories, stones to hold while I think, something from Starbucks.
Directly in front of me are quotes that I check often. A couple of years ago a preacher named Lindsey posted this, which resonates with me every week: “Trying to write a sermon on Luke...wishing I could be doing something else. It’s hard to write a sermon when you don’t know what the parable means. That may be where I’m going with this: that the Bible isn’t an instruction manual but an invitation to be in relationship with God. Sometimes that means thinking some hard thoughts.” Next to that is a quote from another preacher - one of the RevGalBlogPals, I think: “A good sermon is one-half of a passionate conversation . . and a place to meet Jesus.” And from Soren Kierkegaard, “When you read God’s word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, “it is talking to me, and about me.” All of those help me focus or get back on track when I wander into sidebar land.
Running through my mind the whole time is that line from the 19th Psalm that many preachers pray just before they begin their sermon on Sunday morning, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my salvation.” I’m never quite sure why they pray these words before they read a manuscript. I would think this prayer is most appropriately prayed before I start writing the manuscript. Which, now that I think about it, probably shouldn’t be called a manuscript at all, as it is neither handwritten nor on paper, but synced to an iPad mini which I hold so I can “preach while walking around” and not get too sidetracked from the topic.
Some of what I write on Saturday shows up in my sermon on Sunday morning. Some (like this piece) gets posted to my blog. Some I file in my “miscellaneous writing” folder to flesh out later. A lot of it just gets deleted. And, as most of my congregation and friends already know, more often than not I’m up at 4 am on Sunday to re-write the entire thing because the Spirit has written something different on my heart overnight.