My blog this week, although called “Simply Sermons”, maybe should have been called “Struggling With Sermons”.
It was Pentecost so we had a lot of Epistle, Psalms and Gospel material to work with.
A few weeks ago when I was preparing to write my first sermon I consulted my Spiritual Director, my Sponsoring Priest and two other experienced preachers from St. Michael’s on how they develop and preach their sermons. The take away from that week were:
· Read the passages over and over until you understand them,
· Pray for an “Idea” or “Theme”,
· Pray for an “Introduction” that would grab the attention,
· Pray for the “Key Messages” you would like to convey,
· Pray for the “Conclusion” and “Sending Actions” you would like as a result,
· Create a document template for the week that is landscape format, Arial 16 point and only uses the left hand half of the page. When you draft the sermon and print it you will have space on the right hand side to make revision notes,
· Draft the sermon on the document template,
· Read it, re-read it, re-read it and then read it again,
· Practice aloud as though you are speaking to the congregation and remember to time it,
· When ready, cut the pages in half which provides approximately 1 minute of sermon delivery per page. This is important when you are trying to limit sermon time due to the age and physical condition of the majority of the congregation,
· When preaching remember that the congregation want to hear your message and are not there to criticize your sermon,
· And……… lastly, enjoy it as this is a great opportunity and honor that God has given you!
So I started this past Sunday’s sermon by praying and decided to concentrate on both the Gospel (John 19:20 to 23) and the Epistle (Acts 2:1-21) passages.
By Wednesday I was feeling that I did not really have an idea and I was not being guided. I had drafted my sermon but it covered:
· Jesus breathing on the disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”,
· Jesus prophesied the disciples would be sent out to preach to people of many languages when he said “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”,
· Pentecost occurring on Shavuot, the Jewish “Festival of Weeks” which celebrates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and also celebrates the giving of God’s law (the Torah) to Israel at Mount Sinai,
· A personal experience that I had in the Navy with fire and rushing wind,
· The Holy Spirit descending on the disciples as fire and rushing wind. This is a great example of God showing us His glory,
· Filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples started speaking in tongues so all could hear and understand the Word,
· St. Peter’s important sermon as he emerged as the leader and the “Rock” that Christ’s church would be built upon.
On Thursday I prayed for an idea again and the theme of “Community” kept appearing. I did not want to rewrite my sermon so I resisted. No matter how I resisted the idea would not go away.
So, I was feeling a little frustrated but aware that if I went ahead with my original sermon it would not go well. At this time I talked to a fellow SfM student, Susan Green, who kindly offered to review the draft for me. She reviewed it and suggested it may not have a clear idea, there were too many messages and the personal example I had inserted was distracting from the key messages.
I rewrote the sermon using some of the existing material but focused on the new idea of Pentecost being the birthday of the church, St Peter’s sermon starting the church community, and how we have a spirit filled community at Carlsbad-By-The-Sea (CBTS).
As I developed the introduction, key messages and conclusion it flowed and I really felt it was guided by the Holy Spirit.
I have learned this week that the process of writing and preaching is difficult and there is a lot of praying involved. You have to pray on the passages and the event until God gives you an idea that you can own, expand on and deliver.
Plus, for me although it may only take 10 to 15 minutes to deliver the sermon, the research and preparation take approximately 4 hours. This is double the industry standard for developing training courses at 8 hours development for 1 hour of delivery.
This is something that cannot be rushed and I do need to spend the required time as preaching the Word is one of the most important things we can do each week.
I am now looking forward to writing my sermon for Trinity Sunday!!