Saturday, November 24, 2007

Frustration, Thy Name Is Sermon

Okay, so I've been writing all day. On a sermon I started on Tuesday. I've written five or six pages, easily. I have one useable page.


Every once in a while I ask myself why I would knowingly accept the call to a position which requires one to write an A paper every week.

Seriously--no one wants to hear a B sermon, do they?

I realized after a year or so that I had to let go of the idea that all sermons must be perfect.

But I never really let it go...

People are trusting me with their time. I have a responsibility to use that time wisely, to give them something to take home with them, something which helps them to function better, or lifts them up, or challenges them.


Of course right.

I'm going back to it now. Perhaps if I write six or eight more pages, I'll have a couple more pages I can use.

Smile. Sigh. Pray.


Paul B. (Chicago) said...


I'm sure your sermon was lovely yesterday. I hope you didn't resort to the technique of picking out the one keyword in the reading and then expounding on the Greek roots/meaning of that word. I don't see how your crowd would like that much. Did you include the tried/true/not so tired technique of a pithy/teary anecdote from your own life?

Do pastors ever just have a print-out of the reading and then freeform a sermon for ten or fifteen minutes? Ya gotta wonder how that would be.

I found the crucifixion reading yesterday kind of confusing at the end of the church year. And weren't we supposed to sing "Crown Him With Many Crowns"? Our pastor slipped in an anti-Iraq war and a big gay & lesbian statement into his sermon. That came from left field, he doesn't get into that much.


Jessie said...

For what it's worth, I got a lot out of the sermon!

I do sympathize, though...when I was writing for a weekly paper, I felt much the same regarding the willingly committing myself to crafting something trenchant every week.

The thing is, you never know what of what you write is going to speak to people. I often had people comment on stories I wasn't especially jazzed about, and I learned that it's usually the stuff that you wouldn't have necessarily expected to strike a chord that ends up doing just that.


Paul B. (Chicago) said...

Jessie --

WOW. What an insight.

"You never know what of what you write is going to speak to people"

I have a lot of anxiety about writing/speaking in front of groups of people, or just about what I say in particular. I've been trying to rely on prayer to get me through this anxiety and I had an experience like this -- I had to speak on a conference call with a lot of people who I assumed knew so much more than I did -- and they probably do -- but I'm a librarian, and none of them are, and when it came to actual library-related stuff I just spoke up extensively for librarians in general -- I don't know where it came from. Later in the day my boss got a call from the head of the committee saying what a difference I'd made to them and...

Studying Acts lately I get a sense that the Holy Spirit does move through me even when I have no idea what that means.

Thanks Donna and Jessie!


Donna said...

Thank you, Jessie and Paul for your comments. Jessie, I'm glad you got something out of the sermon. I spent a good part of the day thinking up really cool sermons I could have preached. :)

It came out okay, though. I just haven't had that level of writer's block in a while. I knew what I wanted to talk about, I just couldn't get there. Had all of this death penalty stuff that I kept adding and subtracting.

Paul, funny you mention the Greek exposition stuff. When I was in seminary, I promised I'd never do that. Now that I think about it, I've broken most of the promises I made in seminary...

Anyway, I only explicate the Greek when it is absolutely necessary, but it usually works. We have a pretty bright crowd, which helps.

Yes, some pastors do the freeform sermon. I can't. I have horrible dreams about Sunday mornings when either I can't find my sermon or I realize that I've failed to write one. I learned on internship that I can't even preach from a page of notes, the way we were taught in preaching class. I have to have the whole thing written out. I may not look at whole paragraphs, but the paragraphs have to exist. I think it's an English major thing.

Donna said...

Okay, two more things and I'm done. Jessie, I have found as well that you never know what is going to touch people. So often it is the sermon which disappoints me that delights someone else. I think sometimes God knows what the people need to hear, and how they need to hear it. Then God whispers it in the preacher's ear.

Paul, the crucifixion reading does seem to come out of left field on Christ the King. During Lent and Holy Week, we spend a lot of time preparing ourselves to hear that reading, so I too find it a bit jarring every November.

It's the reading because of the "King of the Jews" reference. And it does provide a lot for us to talk about. But it's also always hard to have crucifixion knowing that we won't hear the story of the resurrection in a couple of days (unlike Good Friday).

The one thing I do like about it is that it allows the Passion narrative (or part of it) to form a bridge between the end of the church year and Advent. So we await the Christ child with the memory of the man on the cross fresh in our minds. Poignant, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

I haven't got to read the blog in a while obviously. I just wanted to say that there is ALWAYS something that I take away for myself from your sermon's. I don't and I don't believe anyone else thinks that you have to be perfect. Lighten up on yourself a little and know that you are placed here with us because you have messages for us. And we are willing to listen. We love you!