Saturday, February 18, 2006

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.

(rabbit hole)

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.


Mary Beth said...

Hi Brian!

Just thought I'd let you know that you have a fan. We met at Jenny and Tim's a few Christmas's ago and I just found your blog through Jenny's. We seem to be living parallel lives, so you're stuck with me. I like this post in particular. I have to go preach now, but I fully intend to comment later!

Mary Beth

'neice said...

I can't wait to see what you ended up doing. Silly me for reading too late!

Mary Beth said...

Hi! I'm back, a little to late to respond in time to your dilemma, but I'm not sure I had much of an answer anyway.

I preached one sermon recently on the text where Philip tells Nathaniel to "Come and See" the Messiah. In an attempt to address the cultural Christianity in so many congregations (and mine) I affirmed the fact that many people haven't had their hearts captured by Jesus to the point that they want to invite others to come and see. I then invited people to give me a call or send an e-mail if they could identify with that so that we could talk about what experience they needed of Jesus to be excited enough that they wanted to share. Wouldn't you know it, someone actually contacted me. Now, a month later, we're still trying to get together for coffee or lunch. But at least one person was listening and took it seriously! One! How exciting is that! I think I'll only do the "assignment" sermon rarely...I just don't think that people take it seriously.

I, too, struggle with being relevant. I think the worst part about preaching is the relative lack of feedback. Sure, everyone says, "I really enjoyed your sermon," but, then again, they're supposed to say that.

I would love to start Wesleyan class meetings, but it's like pulling teeth to get people to commit to one hour a week of Bible study! Argh!