I remember I had been in my first appointment for about eight months and I was beginning to worry. And as I sat with another new pastor, a good friend of mine, I confided in him my fear. “I feel sometimes like I’m running out of sermons,” I said, and it was true. While in seminary I had experienced various inspirational moments and my Scripture study had produced a number of ideas I wanted to pursue, but the fact was eight months in, I was beginning to have weeks where I wasn’t sure what I was going to say come Sunday morning at 10:05am when the sermon began.
Now pretty soon after that I began to develop the discipline of sermon planning and I laid out the messages for Sunday mornings a year at a time and that helped to alleviate the fear and enabled me to be much more productive. The process helped me to accumulate material for messages well in advance of the preaching moment and allowed me the privilege of sorting the wheat from the chaff ─ I hope anyway ─ rather than having to take whatever I came up with.
I am a huge believer in planning. In fact, much to the contrary of the man who once suggested my year ahead planning disallowed for the Spirit’s work, I believe working well in advance enables the Spirit to hone the messages much more so than winging it at the last minute, and trusting God will show up in our vulnerability.
These days I don’t preach every week and that reality has, I think, dulled my sermon sense a bit. Without that file full of upcoming messages, I miss things these days that would have made it into folders in the past. I don’t hear comments or read a story or see something in a movie, (or on the West Wing!!!) and respond, “There’s a sermon in that!” But I am grateful for all the ways God continues to bring inspiration and life to the work and ministry I am doing. And I pray this is true for all of us whether lay or clergy.
May we plan in all kinds of ways to do our ministry well, to do our absolute best to make what we do for God relevant and rich with Good News. May we do our part knowing that God will surely do God’s part. And the partnership we share will indeed create disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.