Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sermon Writing

I've not had much to post here lately, because most of my thinking time has been spent writing sermons.

I generally can write pretty quickly, once I get the "muse" - once I have done the research and set aside the time to buckle down and write.

What kind of research do I do? I usually first read the scripture in various translations (and paraphrases). It's easy to do using the Bible Gateway. I pay special attention where the translations are different - then I go to the Greek or Hebrew and try to discern the meaning of the word(s) in question.

Sometimes there are concepts that are unclear or "Christianese" words that might not be understood. For example, I never understood that "righteousness" meant "having a right relationship with God" until I was in seminary. I didn't understand words like "Holiness" or "sanctification" until then either (and am still working on grasping their meanings). Kingdom of Heaven? Salvation? There are words and phrases with all sorts of nuances and connotations that should be understood in a fuller context than how we might look at them.

Then there are the places. I believe the scripture writers used place names purposefully. Sometimes I get bogged down in details while telling a story (nobody else really needs to know if a particular incident happened in my sophomore or junior year of college, do they?), but I don't believe that those who wrote down the scriptures just included details simply for the sake of having details. Though it is important for them to have kept good records, I believe that the places mentioned are important.

And I'm lousy at Ancient Near East geography.

So that means I need to find out why that place is important. Did something of significance happen there? Does its name mean something special? Does any of that have significance in the passage I'm reading?

Though I find all of that exciting, most of that research never comes out in the sermon I preach. Why not? Usually because I've been praying about what the congregation needs to hear from that particular passage of scripture, and the research information, though important, isn't the part they need to hear.

Anyway, that's about it for now. If you want to read some of my sermons, my manuscripts can be found here.

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