On writing sermons

Well, it is 11 PM and I have finally put to bed my sermon for tomorrow’s service.  I usually like to have my sermons completed on Friday so all I have to do is rehearse it and finish scripting the Order of Service.  Today I did both. And focused on several other things pertaining to ministry.  It has been a full day. 

The process of writing this sermon was longer than I expected.  Perhaps because it was supposed to be a homily because additional things are happening in tomorrow’s service like our annual water ingathering ceremony.  Well, the homily is 14 pages long as opposed to my normal 18 -20 pages. It was difficult to say all I wanted and felt I needed to say in less words.  I tried.  I cut severely and rewrote multiple sections several times. 

Plus, conversations occurred during the week that shifted the content a bit.  This is a good thing.  I believe sermons should be a reflection on the life of the congregation in some manner. Perhaps not entirely but in some manner it must connect to what is happening in the now. 

Sometimes it isn’t until I hear the words aloud that I go, O No… that is not what I meant to say at all.  Or realize that a sentence that looked good on paper simply reads poorly aloud.  Or worse, it makes no sense what so ever… I wrote what???   

This sermon is also going to be the first to be placed digitally on video and then burned to DVD and sent to the Mississippi congregations to be used as they see fit.  So my writing felt compounded a bit by knowing my audience was larger than the congregation that hears this tomorrow.   How do I write a sermon for six congregations?  All of them different in theological diversity and in developmental growth as congregations.  I never deliver the exact sermon twice.  So even if I do recycle a sermon I always re-work it with the congregation I am speaking to in mind. Re-working a sermon sometimes takes just as long in hours as the original writing did.   Not to mention that I might have grown or shifted in my own theological point of views on the subject.  So to deliver a sermon that will be heard live by one congregation and by memorex by several others is a new challenge.   So some of what I ended up writing was for these other congregations in mind. 

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s service.  I always have looked forward to the services.  I place my intentions that the congregation will receive what they individually and collectively need to receive… even if it wasn’t scripted into the service.  That is always the best.  Those moments when the whole combined equals more than the sum of the parts.  How does one write that into a sermon?  How does one factor in the experiences of lifetimes, brief or long, that are going to be present and hearing these words and filtering what is being said with that kind of life long filter.  That is the amazing thing for me in writing sermons. Having those transcending moments occur unbeknownst to me as the preacher are simply the gems that sermon writing engenders if done well.


Published in: on August 24, 2008 at 4:40 am  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. I’m glad to hear that another congregation is using technology to support our smallest groups with sermons! That’s a great gift to them and to our movement.

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