January 3, 2009


Tiki is sitting at the base of my chair, mewing for me to pay attention to him. I reach out and scratch his head and before I know it, he's up on my desk, watching the candles flicker.

It's another Saturday night spent working on the sermon for Sunday. I could use New Year's as an excuse, or the fact that we did the newsletter this week, or even my trip to Des Moines today to hang out with friends from college, but no, Saturday sermons are pretty typical for me.

I've always been a procrastinator. The ideas and words seem to flow better when there is a sense of urgency. Yeah, yeah, I know that last minute work often has less proof-reading and editing... but I can't seem to get myself to focus until I'm down to the wire. It's my modus operandi. We'll see if that changes any in this next year.

At least I'm writing at my desk. Normally it's on the couch in the living room, but I'm trying to use my personal space better this year. So far today, I've used my office to work out, practice guitar, blog, and now procrastinate on the sermon writing. Probably more use than it has had in a month. That's a pretty good start to '09.

Here is a question for all of you pastors out there. What is the difference between preaching and sermon writing? Are the two ever mutually exclusive for you? And how do you preach a sermon that someone else has written?

I ask mostly because I'm feeling beyond inadequate in my writing tonight. Everything that gets typed gets deleted. I know what I want to say, but I also know of people out there who have put it into much better words than I have at my disposal right now. So maybe this is a question of calling. I feel called to preach, not because I have anything particularly interesting to say, but because I have come to see that I'm a good communicator of God's Word. Is that because I know how to put the gospel into a form that others can empathize with and understand? Or is it because of years of drama and speech experience? Or am I just procrastinating even more?


  1. Really interesting question! I don't preach, generally, but I tend to be the kind of person who weighs each word carefully and craves a real sense of what I'm going to say before I open my mouth. One of the interesting aspects of my Franciscan path has been reading about how Francis preached, which is basically that he prayed a lot, then went to where he was called to be and he opened his mouth, not having a clue what he would say.

    Thinking about that, about directing my thoughts more towards prayer than preparation, and learning to be more comfortable with the unknown have been huge for me.

    On one hand I often am not really really sure I'm getting out what I want to say very articulately, but on the other, there's a lot more awareness that something living is happening in my words as I speak them. And I can listen a lot better.

    Also, I'm less anxious beforehand, I used to get sick knots in my stomach, and I'm a lot more relaxed now, more ok with not-knowing or feeling foolish. Francis was God's Fool after all.

    I'm pretty sure that in most ways it's not about us, but about what passes through us. Being ok with the uncertainty of a living God, allowing there to be room for the Spirit, whether our words are on paper or in air.

    Knowing that sometimes it's not about finding the right words but allowing the right feelings room to breathe. Maybe?

  2. what a beautiful response!

    I have found that my last minute writing actually helps in that sense of really being a vessel of God's word. I am far too nervous speaking extemporaneously, but when I do sit down on Saturday to write my sermon, it usually has the feel of a flowing conversation. I write it how I would speak it if I were trying to share all of the thougths that I have been collecting and reading and absorbing in the last few weeks.

    I do know that the preached sermon on Sunday mornings have very little to do with the words I have written... even if I have said every word that is on my paper.