For the last few years I have been in the process of simplifying my life - discarding anything that I do not need and/or which does not enhance my life in some way. I struggled with some items, putting them first in one pile, then the other before I could finally decide one way or the other.
Now I am moving. I am clearing out my church office and preparing to move into a new one. Like many before me, I have saved print copies of every sermon I ever preached in 3 ring binders, not one of which has been re-opened once the last sermon for the year has been snapped in place.
All of those words, all of those hours of study and prayer and research, all of that struggle with the Gospel as it was presented to me in light of whatever was going on in the world, in the community, in the congregation and in myself - each and every one of those messages was intended to be spoken just once. Each was intended to address a specific audience on a specific day. There were times when I tried to make one over, or re-use it in a different place later in the same day. That sort of worked, sometimes. But not well.
Discarding the paper copies of all those sermons feels a little like discarding pieces of myself. It feels like those times when my hair was really long and I decided to cut it short. It felt strange at first to see all those years of growth laying on the floor at my feet, but the freedom I felt with the first toss of my head was exhilarating. I knew my hair would grow again, but for that moment everything felt new.
I know that the same Spirit who helped me find the words contained in that row of binders filled with messages from some 600 Sundays will give me new words for my new congregation. And those old words, even though they may have been the right words at the time they were spoken, will be left behind like my long hair on the floor of the beauty shop, leaving me free to grow in a new place.