When I started out after Ordination
I'd probably preached around seven or eight times before my Curacy began and they were isolated sermons; one here, one there, so I'd never got into any rhythm. They were one off occasions and whist I enjoyed them nothing prepared me for the pressure of having to come up with something spiritually coherent week in week out and the effect it would have on me.
It's like a kind of overshadowing. It starts on Tuesday after I've had a day off Monday.
Monday I don't think about preaching at all. I don't even think about the fact that I'm not thinking about it.
Tuesday I look at the lectionary readings and think 'Oh no.'
Wednesday I get round to printing them out on a sheet entitled 'Sermon for...' in the hope that in 3 years time I might have built up an archive which can be reused.
Thursday. This is the day I start to feel the weight of the reading. How can I possibly presume to preach on this subject?
Money, wealth and possessions. I am guilty of avarice.
Wisdom and taming the tongue. I still say things I wish I hadn't.
Gratitude for the Harvest. Give me supermarkets. I have nothing to do with farm life: I don't even like cows.
Thursday night. I feel uninspired generally. And unholy. Because what makes a great preacher, according to Phillip Brookes (1835-1893) is not skill, but character.
This is the nub. I thought it would be about knowledge, experience, rhetoric, funny anecdotes.
These things figure, but nothing replaces what a preacher can bring through what he or she is becoming in Christ.
Friday. Sermon writing day. I think about it over breakfast. I have maybe gathered a few bits to feed into it by now. I mull it over and try and make connections with life. Meetings, admin and parish stuff comes and goes through the day. The phone rings. The emails pop in and out. I sit at the desk. I'd like to say that hours later I have a well crafted, scholarly and spiritually insightful offering that I'm delighted with and proud to offer.
But mostly it's just a lesson in how far I fall short, how little time I have for drafting and redrafting something of beauty and how tired I am on Saturday when I finally sit down to finish it off and print it out ready for Sunday.
But in the process I have been obliged to be disciplined whether I felt like engaging with the bible or not. I have sat under it, metaphorically speaking. I have encountered something living. I am not unchanged. I have had to remember that before I can offer it I have to struggle with it; that by grace, week after week, it isn't really just me doing the talking. I'm not crafting it. It's crafting me.