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You've heard the stories about preachers who prepare their sermons well in advance. They take an annual study retreat for several days and map out sermon titles and outlines for the coming year. They return home with Manila file folders neatly labeled by date, title, and sermon text. This system allows them the freedom to spend the entire year collecting tidbits and stories, which they copy onto letter-size paper to fit neatly into the folders.
Prior to each liturgical season, these creatures of mammoth homiletic responsibility enter a second stage of study. They examine the coming Sundays and reflect on how each worship service will flow. Then they send memos to the church musicians, suggesting themes for the morning anthems.
Finally, a full week before it is preached, the finished sermon is in publishable form. This allows the preacher a full seven days to commit the manuscript to memory and make a scant pulpit outline-just in case the need arises, which it seldom does.
At 10 P.M. on Saturday evening, these preachers crawl into bed for a good night's sleep. The next morning, they rise early, eat a balanced breakfast, review the sermon one last time, and then head for the church, confident that preparation is complete.
These preachers never miss a bulletin deadline, and thereby never incur the wrath of the church secretary. They are never at a loss when a parishioner asks, "What are you preaching on next week?" They bask in the calm of a task under full control.
These preachers are the bane of my existence.
Perhaps I find them so annoying because no matter how far ahead of time I select and exegete the sermon text, no matter how long I allow the passage to simmer in the creative soup of my psyche, I simply will not begin actually writing the sermon until it is on the verge of being too late.
Don't misunderstand me. I once longed to be like those preachers who have sermon manuscripts prepared hours and even days before they actually preach them. In seminary when I heard these ...