Wednesday, July 07, 2010


by Scott Dalen

This week I'm on duty, preaching at church for all of our weekend worship services at my home church. I always enjoy preaching, but admittedly, its been awhile since I've done it. For a time, I preached at least once a month, but since the beginning of the year, that has gone by the wayside and as I think back, Ash Wednesday was the last time I preached. Time flies when you're having fun...or in this case, when someone else is preaching.

But long story short, I sit here, Wednesday afternoon, about three-quarters of the way through the preparation process. Here's how it works in Scotty's world. Sunday I read the lectionary texts for the week. It usually takes me a bit of percolating (as I call the mental process) before I decide which individual reading the Spirit is leading me to, but I usually have that done by sometime on Monday. Late Monday and into Tuesday I will read the entire book that the scripture is taken from (ie, this week I'm preaching from Luke, so I read the entire book of Luke). This is a technique that I picked up in my preaching class with Karoline Lewis and Gracia Grindal during my first intensive back in January of 09. After I've done that, I start taking in some commentaries on the passage, and also listen to the Sermon Brainwave pod cast on the working preacher website. These start to give me ideas to focus on the text...but then the Spirit needs to do some more guiding in my...sometimes...very thick brain.

I'm still in this point now...still percolating...but the coffee is starting to smell good in my mental pot.

In other words...I'm about ready to start the next step...writing the sermon itself. That usually happens on Wednesday or Thursday during the week. Once its written, I let it sit overnight and then I come back to it. I head to the basement where I preach it a couple times to thin air...usually while pacing around the basement...I don't stand still very well...unless there's a pulpit in front of me. During these practice sessions, I tweak what I've written...add something here...delete something there...twist a few words around to make them sound better.

This is my process. I like the process, but I do get frustrated when writers block catches me. This often happens on Wednesday. I feel like I should start writing...but the Spirit won't let me. Sometimes I have to wait.

The longest I ever waited...something I'm not proud of...happened last fall. I was slated to do a nursing home service on a Sunday afternoon. Writers block stayed with me all the way through the week...though to a certain extent it might have been self induced. I had some old sermons that would have worked and I kept telling myself that I could use one if I needed to. Finally, between church Sunday morning and the service which was at about 3 in the afternoon, I manged to write the sermon...I don't like letting it get that close though.

But that I've spent the time writing this about my process...maybe its time to continue the process.

I'm going to open Microsoft Word now...and see if I'm able to get any farther along than "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...Amen." That's still my go-to opening line.


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