I’m exhausted. I was up at 6:15 this morning and spoke in our church this morning and then we spent the afternoon with some old acquaintances/new friends. No Sunday afternoon nap means I probably won’t do any heavy reading tonight. Instead, maybe a little light reading and some Hebrew translation.
I’m reflecting back on my sermon this morning. It certainly wasn’t my best sermon. Other than accidentally missing some of the stuff in my notes–useful, clarifying stuff, but not a deal-breaker–I think the presentation of it was ok (but not great). But I did learn some lessons–and I am still a student of the sermon.
Earlier this week I was talking to a classmate about the homiletics (“preaching 101”) classes he took and what kinds of things he retained from those classes. He noted specifically that one of the most valuable things he learned was that you need to have a clear concept or point you are trying to express–in other words, make sure your sermon is focused, much like it’s good to have a clear thesis statement when writing a paper (something which I’m pretty sure I’ve never had). That may not seem profound, but strangely enough, lack of focus was my biggest problem this time around. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn’t say it clearly and so the message may have come across rambly and disjointed. As I was preparing, I kept thinking I was heading towards focus, but I never really got there.
I need to learn to filter out the extraneous material. It is sometimes tempting to cram as much material in as you can find. Even if the material may be relevant or applicable to a passage, it may not be useful to communicate a particular message. In fact, too much material may actually obscure the message.
Also, I think early in the preparation I should not hold too tightly to what may seem at the time to be a good idea. If an idea gets cemented in my mind as a good idea too early in the process, it may actually derail the rest of the process because I will feel compelled to force all other ideas to fit with or around the original idea. That usually doesn’t work. To a degree, I think that was the case this time around.
The second thing which became apparent to me is something which I’m not sure how to resolve. I became aware this morning that I was not really “present” as I spoke, and thinking back, I’m not sure that I have ever been. By this I mean that I am speaking but not really self-aware that I’m preaching; using my notes but not really being aware of using my notes (in fact, shortly after sitting down I wondered if I had missed a page); looking at the listeners but not really seeing them. Does that make sense? I don’t like getting to the end of a sermon and realizing that I wasn’t really present for 20 minutes or more of speaking.
Maybe the solution is simply to relax and try to engage the listeners. Perhaps it would also help to be more familiar with the sermon you’ve prepared–that is, have it more or less done a day or two before it is to be spoken and then run over it several times. And then maybe use a very rough outline of the sermon when speaking, rather than referring to a manuscript. I tried using an outline this morning, but I went back to the manuscript fairly quickly. That was, I think, a combination of nerves and not being familiar enough with the material.
Lessons learned. I hope I remember them next time around.