Friday, January 14, 2011

Just about done for now. . .

I have been hold away reading the lectionary, reading commentaries, searching hymns, and writing sermon outlines.  It is the annual post-Christmas time I set aside to outline my sermons for the next months (now complete through September), to pick out the hymns for the service (helped by CPH and the LCMS Commission on Worship and their fine support materials for LSB but also helped by the fact that I read hymn stanzas as part of my daily prayers).

I write it all out in long hand, on narrow spaced white legal pads, with a fountain pen.  I write out an introduction, an outline with notes for specific phrases or sentences I want to include, and write out a conclusion for each sermon.  As the weeks get closer to the due date, I flesh it out, refine it, write it out in full, and then on Monday of the week before, I complete the outline and send it to the Secretary for the bulletin and continue to edit until Thursday when I let it sit until early Sunday morning.  Then I hit print and read it through a half dozen times before first service and then preach it.

I do not consider myself a great preacher but I find that unless I tie myself to some discipline about sermons, they tend to sound too much alike (as if you had the same sentences but with different subjects and objects).  So about 27 years ago, I hit on this and it has proven to be a good discipline for me.  I think it has helped me improve my craft.  I read a lot of sermons.  I especially like to read the kind of sermons which are not really preachable (I suppose, for example, that Helmut Thielicke did preach his sermons, such as The Waiting Father, for example, but they read better than they preach).  I do not try to write like or even preach like others, although I do soak stuff in and it does affect me.

It is remarkable to me how appropriate the lectionary texts are to what ever comes along in the news -- in 1999 a tornado devastated the downtown of this community and I was so preoccupied by the disaster that when Sunday morning came along I looked down and found the sermon was about the providence of God when things happen that cannot be predicted, explained, or prevented.  I ended up changing one hymn (the last one) and it was as if I had written this sermon for this occasion.  I heartily recommend lectionary preaching and do not use free texts (nor do I appreciate it when preachers have me listen to one set of lessons and sing hymns appropriate to those pericopes and then stand up in the pulpit and read off another radically different text and proceed to preach on it... I consider it false advertising or bait and switch...).

I have written sermons for publication but find it hard to prepare a sermon for two years from now and to write for an unknown congregation of people without any idea what they might be facing... Some can do it, I am not so sure it is for me.  Plus, I have had mixed experiences with Doctrinal Review -- sometimes people make stylistic changes in Doctrinal Review instead of sticking with whether or not the writer got the doctrine right).  Oh, well... better than wondering if the book or sermon or whatever you buy is some outlandish fringe stuff or solidly Lutheran material.  I personally prefer to know up front that something has been reviewed for content rather than spend $25 on a book that I wish I had never read in the first place; Doctrinal Review does not make it all better but it gives you a certain confidence about what you are buying.  Have to give kudos to CPH for putting out some rather amazing stuff the last 6-8 years in particular.

Just thought I would give you an update on what I have been doing. . .  BTW, I must confess here that not all my posts are written when posted.  I do keep a store of some ready to go in case the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak and the mind is numb... Just to be honest....

1 comment:

Marjorie said...

Thank you Pastor for your faithful self discipline. You don't know how comforting it is to read how much you value the preaching ministry. One of the things that finally moved me to leave my church home of over 30 years was the anemic and lifeless, although entertaining, preaching by the new pastor who created a worship team (shudder)because he found hymn selection so tedious. It turned out that the team couldn't help much because he never had a sermon text/subject chosen ahead of time on which to base hymn selection.

May God continue to bless your pleasing service to His people in your congregation.