For The Someday Book

Posts Tagged ‘sermon preparation

I am just downright irritable this morning. And I hate being this way.

Normally, I am a very chipper person. So much so that I am often accused of being annoying, pollyanna-ish and overly optimistic. But occasionally–like today–I am just downright grumpy.

And I don’t like it. Or much of anything else at the moment.

What frustrates me most at times like this is that I know exactly why I’m so irritated, yet I still find myself in the same position.

I am in such an ornery mood because I am stressed out about the sermon for tomorrow (notice that no sermon sapling ever got posted this week). I am nervous about the sermon tomorrow because I haven’t spent enough time this week preparing for it. I haven’t spent enough time preparing for the sermon because I have been overwhelmed with other pressing commitments at the church. Because I have been overwhelmed, I have not had any time to decompress or relax or take time for myself this week, except in desperation when I watch some bad TV or go to bed early. Because I have not had (or made) the time to relax, I can’t clear my head well enough to concentrate on the sermon. So I get more and more nervous about the sermon, more and more frustrated at all the distractions, more and more irritated, and more and more anxious. It’s a cycle of escalation.

This is a bad situation. I don’t let myself get in this position very often, but sometimes it just sneaks up on me.

The only cure, I have found, is to take the time to relax. The sermon won’t come to me in such a mood. No one wants to hear a sermon written by an irritable preacher—there is much griping and little good news in one of those. I have lots of ideas of what to say this week, and they will come together if I can just claim the space to let the Spirit in.

I have learned, after nearly 10 years of preaching, that the best thing that an irritable preacher can do is absolutely nothing related to the sermon. Instead, she should do something that helps her reclaim a sense of space and a sense of God’s presence. For me, it usually works to undertake something I wanted to do–for myself or even for church–that I didn’t have time to do during the week. Somehow that makes me feel like I have reclaimed the speed of my life and put things back into balance. This morning, I cleaned the kitchen and posted this blog entry. It may not be a sermon sapling, but I feel better for having written something at all this week.

By the time I hit the “publish” button, my mood will have already improved greatly. Especially since it means sharing that funny picture of a grumpy baby. I trust God’s forgiving grace will be with me, and with any other preachers who stumble across this entry when they are too irritated to write their own sermons.

I promise I am not making this up.

At the clergy retreat last week, we had to play those typical get-to-know-you games. My colleague who was leading the games did a nice job of handling the overwrought goofiness of it all, but I had to laugh when he started to introduce us to “I Never.” I thought everyone knew “I Never” as a drinking game.  Apparently not. He thought it was a youth group game, like Fruit Basket, where you change chairs based on shared attributes.

Anyway, stifling my laughter, I volunteered to go first, and chose to make a soap-box statement about being the youngest one in the room: “I have never written a sermon without using the internet!” It was a great game play, because almost everyone in the room would have had to take a drink, or change chairs if we had been playing the youth group version.

However, later on in the retreat, I walked by a group of older colleagues talking with one another. I overheard this whispered comment:

“That’s the one who said she gets all her sermons off the internet.”

“I know. I can’t believe she admitted that!”

“Is that even legal?”

I was just about to turn around in shock and horror to defend my honor. Using the internet for sermon preparation does not make you a plagiarist and an intellectual thief! Thankfully, one member of the little group had just a whit of clue about life in the 21st century and explained that I probably just used the internet for my research, just like they use their books. “Oh,” came the reply, “really? You think that’s what she meant? When I hear clergy talk about using stuff from the internet I just figure they are talking about taking whole sermons from other people.”

At this point, I want to turn on my heels and say, “What kind of stone-age idiot are you? I take advantage of the massive resources on the web, so you assume I must be a plagiarist preacher too lazy to do my own work?” I thought better of it and decided to just keep walking. The one clued-in colleague gave a remedial course in the power of the internets, but I swear they gave me disapproving looks for the rest of the retreat. Sometimes you just have to let it go.

I remain haunted by the level of ignorance about the digital age that their comments displayed. Not encouraging for the future of the church, and our ability to connect to the next generation.

About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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