If He Hadn't Written it First
I have often struggled with writing original material. I have called myself a lazy perfectionist; when I say that, I mean that I don't want to do something if I'm not going to do it well. Which often means I'll be hesitant to start something if I don't think it will go well. Which was killing me in a previous work environment when I didn't get the chance to do things well.
Anyway, when I listen to Bob Walkenhorst (side note: how did I get to 2006 before I ever heard of him -- and why did I think that Stephen King made up The Rainmakers for quotes to put in his books?) or the Violet Burning (stop by the website and be sure to listen to Drop-Dead, or, if you're feeling charitable, you can purchase it for me) when I read Philip Yancey or Annie Dillard, I either want to write or I get frustrated because I have never written something quite as poignant (or because I don't quite know what poignant means) or original. (Speaking of original, I should give props to Derek T, because he was the slick one who turned me on to the Bollywood movie thingy. I don't nearly have the knack for finding that kind of crazy stuff that he and the Dunce have. So, thanks, Derek!)
I'm in the middle of finishing a sermon, and the same thing happens when I write a sermon as when I write other stuff. I probably over-analyze what I'm going to say, but I've heard too many bad sermons (or dumb comments in sermons - if you want to see some of those, check out the Wittenburg Door's collection of Godstuff videos) or because I've heard too many irrelevant sermons and I want to make sure that I'm not detracting from the Word with the words I say.
This week I'm talking about a couple of storm stories in Mark's Gospel. In the first one, Jesus was sleeping through the storm. It obviously wasn't as scary to him as it was to the disciples (or to Scooter (the dog), who jumped into the bathtub the other night when he heard lightning - he was still there in the morning). The storm caused a crisis of faith for the disciples.
A couple of chapters (and a miraculous feeding of a multitude) later, there was another storm at sea, but this time Jesus was out for a stroll on the water and the disciples didn't recognize that He was there with them. I pose that often we don't recognize when Jesus is with us.
My dilemma is: do I come up with examples of how they(we) might miss Jesus' presence, or do I give them the assignment to look for Jesus? When I was a youth pastor, I could give assignments like that and have the kids come back and tell about it, and it was always cool. But with "big people church" there's no accountability for such assignments. I can give them, but then it's hard to get results, especially in a format where others can learn and grow from them.
Which brings me to the idea of the "Wesleyan class meeting." Before you get all riled up about crazy Methodist stuff, just think "small group" and you're all set. I'm writing a paper about them for my Methodist History class, and it's really a shame that they fell off by the mid 1800s. I think Methodism would be a much greater institution were it not for the demise of mandatory small group participation...
Anyway, back to sermon prep.