how i prepare to preach

I don t find it difficult to prepare a sermon. I choose a text early in the week, read and study it, allowing the text itself to percolate through my mind and heart. Then by the weekend I start noticing themes emerging. Structure. By Saturday the main thrust of what the text wants to say starts to impress itself upon me. Sunday morning I get up really early, make coffee, put on some worship music, and jot down a basic outline in my journal. I preach extemporaneously (no notes). So that s how I build a sermon.

The difficulty is the emotional and spiritual preparation. You carry the residue of life with you into the preaching experience. Can t be helped. If Lisa and I are dealing with an issue in our relationship, it s hard to shake that off for a Sunday morning to suspend the unresolved. Or if we have struggles with our teenage children the night before, it s difficult to release the tension. Or, if we have friends who are going through it, it s hard to preach in the face of such urgent need. Or, if I m going through my own little spiritual crisis, how do I preach with that trying to drag me down?

So, what I do is be myself. I try to preach the truth of the gospel through thick and thin. I believe in the steadfastness of God in Christ. I preach that, no matter what I m going through or the people are going through. Like Barth said, he preached as if nothing was happening. He didn t let circumstances determine the truth because he believed that the truth determined circumstances. I get in front of the people Sunday morning and try to be as weak, honest and transparent as possible, but also try to preach what I ve prepared with the boldness of Paul. I m a clay vessel, and a cracked one at that. But so are all the people. Leonard Cohen said that s how the light gets in.

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