the Epistles. A committee of theologians has assigned scriptures for each week according to the time of the church year. (you know, Lent, Christmas, Easter,etc). I do have to admit it may take some time and research to see how each is related.
Now lets begin. Having reviewed the lectionary scriptures, you have to choose one subject or a single thought on which to expound. This choice must proclaim the presence of God with us, teach the concept, and apply to current situations in the world, the congregation and assist in personal growth. This is not as easy as it sounds.
First - much prayer. After all, if you are going to speak for God you mightwant to know what God wants you to say. That means you must take time to listen, not just talk.
Second - choose how to present the message God wants the people to hear. Where do you want it to take your listeners? How will you get there? Is it an historical account or a story of how God deals with humanity? Is it a teaching for personal growth or edification? Perhaps it is an admonition to know and praise God. If you have never written a sermon before I will warn you, it will challenge your life first. If the message does nothing for you it will not reach the people either. Go back to step one.
Next we begin to prepare the Word of life for the people of God. Have you ever cooked a holiday meal for your extended family of say about 30 people? Everyone in the family has dietary restrictions, allergies and preferences. There are milk-babies, vegetarians, vegan and meat-eaters. You must be
sure the meal is nutritious for all and really delicious. It has to be plated beautifully and served on time, on real china, each course in proper order - never dessert first. There must be something for the infant as well as the oldest person in the room. Everyone wants to help but they have their own recipes and want to enlighten you on the spices you need in each dish you serve. You listen but mostly there is confusion and people getting in each other's way but all with the best of intentions.
Finally, Uncle Marty enters the kitchen to declare what is correct in each dish as he sees it. He owns several successful catering businesses in cities across the world. He trains world-class chefs. He knows cooking. He likes that you are using his recipes and whatever comes out your kitchen will please him, especially if there are leftovers for him to take home. With Uncle Marty’s blessing the kitchen thins out and dishes appear on the table for all to enjoy. At the end of the meal, there are more than enough leftovers to share. Uncle Marty is one happy man having overseen the entire process. Many times writing a sermon is similar to preparing that special meal. There is prayer and listening. Preparation which includes study, researching commentaries, writing and rewriting.
Your sermon must contain something for everyone from those who simply understand “Jesus loves me” to those who are seasoned disciples. There must be encouragement for the downtrodden, a call to action for those who are looking for purpose and praise from the joy and blessing God has given. Demonstrations and stories, like recipes, help to keep the word fresh and applicable to both the minister and the congregation as they go back into the secular world. I love the work of writing the Sunday message.
You work on it all week - listening and praying your manuscript through each line and paragraph. You let your message simmer in your mind and work in your spirit before doing the last rewrite. Listen to what God is telling you this week through nature, readings, and other believers. You may find God preaching the message to you. Once you have God’s blessing (like Uncle Tony in the kitchen), then print the manuscript - yes, all eight pages. Don’t worry about anything else - it's all in God’s hands. The most important part comes when you stand to the pulpit as God’s spokesperson.
Remember it is God’s word - not yours. God will empower the spoken word. God's word will accomplish his will. Place your manuscript on the pulpit. Read your scripture, title and maybe your historical information. Then turn the page over and preach from the overflow of what God has taught you this week.