Sunday, 11 October 2015

Secrets of a real life preacher

So, you're a preacher.

When you were a keen lay person, and not yet a minister, perhaps you got the chance to preach once in a while. It was great - you had about 4 weeks notice or more; you read widely, chewed the theme over, made some notes, felt on top of things, felt quite inspired and even a bit holy, wrote out your sermon and practised it in front of the mirror till you were word perfect.

It's a bit different now you're a fully paid up preacher. That sermon comes round far too soon every week. Unless you're one of those preachers who has a large staff to do all the other ministry tasks for you, so that you can spend the elusive 'hour per minute' on your sermon prep, you'll probably have some sympathy for the following two scenarios. Neither is fictional, both are recent, and in each case, I initially plumped for one option when in fact the other was the only one that (in hindsight) worked. 

I wonder which options you would have taken?

Despite reserving some time in your diary for sermon preparation, it's somehow got eaten into bit by bit till you suddenly arrive at nearly the weekend and you have no sermon. It's late afternoon, you've finally extricated yourself from admin; you tell yourself, 'now is the time, I'll never get round to it unless I do it now''s after lunch and all the blood has gone to your stomach, leaving nothing in your brain. But you MUST write something NOW. But you're so tired............Do you:

1) Sit and stare at the computer screen and spend the next two hours fretting about being unproductive. Afterwards you still have no sermon but you do have a headache, feel grumpy and are too tired to cook the supper properly. 

2) Sleep. 
Somehow you'll wake up feeling a lot better and inspiration will always come along if you have the energy. You'll be amazed how clear your head is now and somehow more minutes will be found that you didn't otherwise envisage. You'll even enjoy putting something down on paper with your renewed energy, maybe between phone calls, cake making and a TV programme, but it'll be good...

You have to prepare an All Age talk for Harvest on Matthew 6: Jesus' teaching on 'Do not worry'. You don't really know who will be at the all age service because all age congregations are like the 'Marmite' of church life: they're either strangely and inexplicably empty, or encouragingly bang full of lovely people you've never seen before. But you never know which till you process in. This is normal. As far as children are concerned, you're haunted by the time you prepared an 'all age' fun song that involved jumping up and down and generally making a fool of yourself; and no children came. In addition, last night you had a dream where you found yourself at home on a Sunday morning and you suddenly looked at the clock and realised the service had started 2 minutes ago and you're still in your pyjamas. Furthermore in the dream your house was in a terrible mess, all the furniture was upside down and covered in dust sheets, and you couldn't find any of the things you'd prepared for the all age service; neither the music, the talk, the visual aids nor the notice sheets.  Not only could you not move your legs about normally in the dream; you couldn't actually speak either, only moan incoherently: 'please, someone help me'. 

How do you approach this task?

1) Ignore the entire point of the reading and WORRY.

2) Remember that the point of church is to witness to the presence of Jesus and he said 'do not worry' for a reason, and anyway it's bad for your health AND a bad witness; and actually you have no idea of people's lives; if they can come, they'll come; if they can't they won't. But very likely someone will be there, and they will hopefully encounter God there, and that's His work anyway; and we're called to be faithful, not 'successful'. So put something together that can be adapted as need be. Put the dream behind you and enjoy the people who do come. And above all, don't worry.

As it says in the Good Book: 'Physician, heal thyself'.

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