Friday, 29 July 2011

Sermon Block

It's alright for you lot sitting in the pews, listening to the sermons of people like me - you just come to church sit down, sing a bit, pray a bit and wait for the preacher to expound and then you go home. 

Which is fine until the preacher in question has a condition that I am now going to diagnose as "Sermon Block". It presents with varying symptoms:
 - Jesus already stated the meaning of the parable in question, so what can I possibly add?
 - I have preached the last 30 Christmases, so what can I say that is new this year?
 - I have no idea what this passage is saying
 - I have no idea where to start
 - I have no idea what to say once I have started
 - I gave up caring and I am now cursed by apathy
 - Good Friday? The under-5s? 
 - or just this

It is an affliction that gets every preacher at some time or other, often several times a year, and it is a hard thing to treat. Instead of anti-inflammatory drugs we reach for enflammatory commentaries, online or printed. I have even heard of people using the sermons of others (though not I, Your Honour).  Once, and not that long ago, I was robing up without a sermon written. It happens and it is not nice (though the resultant 21 minute homilette was well received). 

My solution to this and indeed to the preparation of all my sermons is to "go where called". A word jumps out, sticks to me - and then at least I have something of a launch pad. I am blessed with an extrovert mind so can "wing it" at times. So, this Sunday, we have (in this part of the world at least) the story of the Loaves and Fishes. I know that there is much to say, but I can't trawl a single coherent thought from the abyss of my Vernacular Bonce. 

Whilst this post is written in a light way, it is a real problem when it happens. Bloggers will lament their inability to write a post, and so it is with preachers. For some, a deadline is a good thing, for others a panic-inducing curse. I believe that the value of preaching is not in what is remembered but in what is retained. I am my own example here: I can never remember sermons afterwards. Never could. Yet I have been fashioned by them throughout my life. None remembered, much retained. For the preacher this brings a very specific responsibility - the excuses won't cut it. Our words stick, so when they are un-crafted, unplanned or frankly uninspired, they create a potential problem. No preaching class that I have been to have addressed this. 

I am writing this post in a state of Sermon Blockedness. I am hoping that in so writing, I might dislodge the debris so that fresh thought and new inspiration might pour forth. I have four sermons to preach on Sunday - so it needs to happen in the next 12 minutes. 


  1. I happen to be sitting at my computer at the same time as you are dealing with your sermon block. That used to be my problem too....... particularly on a Friday if I was trying to be good - Saturday if I had allowed slippage throughout the week. Anyway, here I sit and I offer up a prayer, for all of you finding God's word for the week. Every Blessing

  2. Fr. David, you describe well my own experience. Seems the sermon always hangs over me. It is part of my own spiritual struggle and growth. That realization, however, does not make it any easier or get the sermon prepared. I am sorry for your sermon block but glad to know it's not just me!

    Peace be with you,

  3. You could always tell the tale of the Feeding of the 6,000 that was stopped by the Galilean Governing Authority Environmental Health Officer ..... though quite where that train of thought would lead .....

  4. Like!

    ...and so my sort of humour. Bless you :D

  5. What about the recycling and collecting the leftovers?

    Also, were the women fed? Not happy about 5000 men, to say nothing of women and children.

    I wonder what really happened. Had a good catch been landed? I understand that much of the Gospels are symbolism but there is also much practical details.

    We have Matthew's view of this at my church this Sunday so I will listen with interest.

  6. I made notes on yesterday's sermon about Feeding of 5000, some are now illegible so here's a slection of phrases.
    Briefly, Jesus worked late as usual; Greek word for 'you' as Jesus wanted men to feed people small portions as we don't have enough resources to do what God wants; what would have happened if we had eaten that meal? Little things transformed by Jesus, transform our bread slso; impact on our lives, spiritual nourishment & feeding our souls.
    MacDonalds experiment where some one lived on rubbish food for a month. (Preacher admitted to liking MaccyD food!) Do we overeat and overfeed our souls?
    Fasting before Communion (the preacher admitted he did so only because he was too lazy to get up in time to eat before 8am service)
    Reminded that at Communion we say 'Jesus feed me'.

    Probably not clear from my jottings, but a different take.

  7. And very much appreciated - thank you so much! A very valuable insight and covering aspects hitherto overlooked or unseen by these eyes!

    Blessings aplenty Mum!

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  9. Only just read this yesterday - it's reassuring to be reminded I'm not the only person who experiences 'sermon block' - but I think it's part of the struggle of the very challenging task of preaching. I read this post after coming back from a mid-week Communion where I'd left my mini-homily at home on the printer. It then triggered further thoughts about sermon preparation which I've posted today here



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