like tonight, for instance, i realized that i didn't want to preach tomorrow. i was dreading it. i ALWAYS take that as a sign, sometimes too late, that something is wrong. it's 8:30 pm, a little late wouldn't you think to redo a talk you are giving in a little over 12 hours, and you have to get a sleep in there. you know, we pastors can be dense! thick in the head. we're slow to learn. sometimes i've been up preaching, and right in the middle of my sermon i realize that something is wrong. terribly wrong. a couple of times i've stopped and redirected myself right then and there. that scares the **** out of you, let me tell ya. so, it's this late saturday night and i still want to drink wine with my wife, watch a movie, visit with our kids, and get some sleep, and my sermon SUCKS! and i know it deep down inside because i dread the thought of preaching it.
here's what i do. i sit down and give myself a speedy self-analysis. it takes seconds sometimes: what's wrong? why aren't you feeling comfortable with what you've planned to say? what about the sermon turns you off? obviously you don't truly agree with what you are going to preach, or you are preaching legalism of some sort, or you're twisting the text to say something it doesn't say, or you really couldn't say what you're planning on saying with integrity, or it's just so frigging boring that you're dreading the thought of keeping yourself awake during it, as well as the people.
i'm planning on preaching on mary's response to the angelic visitation: "here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be unto me as you have said!" 3 points: 1. i'm here; 2. i'm your servant; 3. your will be done. i was going to preach on 1. making ourselves available to the lord; 2. serve the lord; and 3. trust the lord. BLAH!!!! been there done that threw out the tee-shirt. after i gave myself some analysis, i realized what i really wanted to say, or what the text was begging to say, was that mary, through the earthly life of her son jesus, simply had to 1. just be there in a non-interfering manner (nothing really more was required); 2. just be available as he grew up; and 3. let the will of God be done in hers and in jesus' life, no matter how painful and confusing. mary was chosen because God could count on her to let jesus grow up in his own way, that she would be available to him as a helper when needed, and that she would not prevent the austere will of God from being fulfilled in her son's life. i want to talk about, now i realize, how i as a pastor, we as people, and we as a church, must be that way with the 'jesus' in others: 1. don't interfere; 2. just be available in whatever helpful way we can; 3. let God's will be done in their lives, no matter how painful. now THAT turns me on. THAT'S what i want to say! and once i realize what i want to say, there's really no stopping me. preparation is no longer an issue.