Yogi Berra said of baseball, "Ninety-five percent of this game is half mental." Preaching is about the same. We learned how to exegete a text, structure an outline, and stand and deliver. But somewhere along the line we need to learn the mental game.
I know it's my God-ordained responsibility to deliver the Word faithfully whether I'm jazzed or not. We preach by faith … even on Sundays when our hearts are heavy or our minds are dull. The Spirit's anointing—his unction—does not always come with an adrenaline rush. But I can still get psyched. Psych is a transliteration of the Greek word psuche—soul. That works for me. Let's say I've got to get "souled up" before I preach. And it's different from the way athletes get up for a big game.
Weight for the words
Usually, the first time I read my text, it seems one-dimensional, flat and light as the paper it's printed on. As I study, pray, and think, it is almost as though, one word or phrase at a time, the sermon grows heavier, as though the very ink gains weight. Gradually it takes on a more lifelike shape, and Jesus himself comes to life in it somehow, and so do the people I will address.
It is tempting to preach a passage before it has fully come to life. It's not that hard, really. You can lay out a solid exegetical outline, explain key words, colorize with good illustrations, but the sermon is too lightweight. Not so much because it is trite, but because it isn't full. Did you ever see an actor on a stage pick up a suitcase, and you just knew there was nothing in the suitcase, even though he leaned into it? He just can't fake the weight, and you begin to doubt the actor. A sermon is like that.
In the Old Testament there were priestly carriers. When Israel ...