When I came to the congregation I’m serving, most of my week was spent trying to come up with a sermon. I’d pore over commentaries, read homiletics texts to try to remember how to write a sermon, and stare for ages at the computer screen pecking out a sentence here, a thought there, racking my brain to come up with even a slightly interesting illustration, and by the end of the week I’d have a sermon in place but not a very good one, at least in my opinion.
Lately I’ve decided that I can’t spend that much time coming up with a sermon for Sunday. There are other things to do in my ministry. So for some time now I’ve been cheating. I patch together things from various sermon helps, books, online stuff, and come up with something decent, certainly faster, but it doesn’t sound like me. I’m not satisfied. I feel like I’m cheating myself and my hearers. And I’m not hearing "good sermon pastor." I don’t need to hear that for my ego but it helps to know that what I’m saying means something to someone out there.
I was reading yesterday from The Evangelizing Church: A Lutheran Contribution (Augsburg Fortress, 2005) in a chapter by Richard H. Bliese called "Addressing Captives in Babylon." In part of this chapter he’s discussing a common lament "Since Jesus in no longer living with us bodily, how can we actually ‘hear’ his voice or ‘feel’ his healing touch?" Then he writes:
The heart of evangelical theology and preaching is that Christ is alive and present among us—concretely and unmistakably. Jesus’ word and presence are real, direct, graspable, and available for us—today! If faith means anything, it means grasping hold of a sermon or a forgiving word from a friend and declaring, "Amen, I believe these are Jesus’ words for me." Clarity on this point is vital for evangelizing. We do not act as if Jesus Christ were present in the Christian community. The gospel message is that Jesus, actually, is alive and is really present with us in Christian community as he promised. That’s the good news. It’s the great gift of salvation.
That’s a lot of pressure. Christ comes to us through Word and Sacrament and Christian Community. My words are to become The Word(?). I’ve always felt privileged to be able to share the Gospel with God’s people. I still do, but I’m kind of intimidated as well. It’s not that I don’t want to make the effort to write a good sermon. Maybe I’m just not a good preacher and that’s such an important part of a pastor’s ministry.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.