Sermon preparation is a never-ending, never-stopping endeavor for any local pastor. And yes, I love it. In the trade, we often refer to the “relentless return of the sabbath”; as soon as a sermon is delivered, another one is coming in seven days. I wont say that it has become easier for me with years, but is has become more enjoyable. I have a few ideas why.
Rarely does one of my sermons come to life absent the context of a series or a season in the Christian calendar. That gives me the opportunity to spread out things I feel led to talk about over several weeks. With shifting attendance patterns, it helps to be creatively repetitive. It also takes away the pressure to squeeze too much into one sermon. I have found that circling around a more singular theme and specific request gives folks greater ability to ponder and respond to the sermon. Still, more material gets left out than makes its way into most sermons.
It’s also more enjoyable because I get to preach out of being the pastor of a group of folks I love and have been called to lead. When I look out at you on Sundays, I often think of your life stories, and its problems, both transient and ongoing. Over time, I have learned to pick up on collective needs and experiences that I can preach into, leveraging the pulpit for some pastoral care writ large. From time to time, I am compelled to put on the hat of prophet as well as priest, and bring what I believe to be a word from the Lord in regards some current matter that the gospel speaks to, but is poorly heard – or worse, misinterpreted. I do not wield that sword lightly or often, but know that you trust me to, best I can, rightly divide the word of truth. And I can trust you to listen, and as you feel convinced or convicted, to respond. There is one more mantle a pastor brings into the pulpit; that of king. Not a king in a vainly superior sense, but as one charged with leadership of his or her personal congregation. You have probably noticed that I have been doing that pretty directly since the first of the year. Prophet, priest, and king pastors are simultaneously called to be, and to act in one or more of those capacities every time we stand behind (or reasonably close to) the sacred desk.
One other cause for joy in sermon preparation lies in the fact that I get to spend unguarded time with a specific text or biblical theme. I am amazed at how often I see something fresh and new, or a connection or context not seen before. Sometimes it even causes me to change my mind about a text I thought I fully understood. And then, I can no longer take the sermonic shortcut, but most take the long way home and bring you with me. Such is the stuff of Sunday’s sermon. I’ll go ahead and warn you; I am going to take one of the most loved texts in the Bible and blow it up for you. Then I plan to cast it in a different light which will make it more beautiful, and us able to love it even more. Again, this is one of the great joys of being a pastor. You see, such epiphanies would mean far less without a beloved people to share them with. It’s because of you that the work of preaching, born out of the call of pastoring keeps ever unfolding in more meaningful ways. I look forward to showing up for that again yet again this Sunday morning. I hope you do too.