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.