The Moon: We Can’t Reach It

Written by Drew on May 12th, 2008

It’s Monday, and I’m doing what I do every Monday, fretting over what to preach next Sunday. Sunday night is my favorite night of the week. It’s the one time that I’m not stressing over my next sermon. By Monday morning it’s back to the preacher’s age-old problem of what to preach. I’ve heard it called the “tyranny of Sundays,” which is how sermon preparation can feel sometimes when you’re fresh out of ideas.

People who have never prepared sermons on a weekly basis will probably be surprised to hear that preachers deal with writer’s block. I mean, there are sixty-six books of inspiration to choose from and a world of problems out there. The possibility of subjects is limitless. Picking sermon topics looks easy until you try it. It’s like dieting: You are excited about it until the first meal and then you’re pretty hungry by 10:00 a.m. and you tell yourself to hold on to your resolve but by the evening news you’ve eaten an entire bag of potato chips.

In Homiletics, they will tell you to plan a year’s worth of preaching ahead of time. This is something I want to try sometime, when I am able to set aside a week or two to do the necessary planning. The art of planning months of sermons ahead of time involves being creative with series. There’s no way to plan 104 individual sermons all at once, so you have to come up with themes that will dictate several good, relevant sermons. When I do this, I will probably include a series based on a book, say, Mark’s Gospel for example. I want to try to stay away from the cliche sermon series like the “I am” statements of Jesus or a study of the beatitudes. These are great studies, but if I’m going to do series, I want them to be smart, creative, and, most of all, important.

Here is where sermon selection gets sticky. How do you frame God’s Word in such a way that it speaks to our generation? Everything pertaining to life and godliness is already there, but people are not going to read the Bible on their own and apply it to life the way they should. If they were doing this, we preachers would be out of a job. Our task is to break the Word of Life into just the right portions, season it with relevance, and serve it in an environment conducive to digestion–not too much sweet stuff, but not just beets and cabbage, either.

My suggestion for learning the art of sermon selection is to watch children. Kids are masters of profundity. It doesn’t matter that they know nothing about their world and need to be taught by others. When they speak people listen.

Take, for example, a declarative statement made by my two-year-old daughter: “The moon! I can’t reach it.” What did we learn from that? Of course we can’t reach the moon. It’s 238,857 miles from earth. But when she said those words, we listened like Plato at the feet of Socrates. We wrote the saying down in a journal so we wouldn’t forget it. Called the grandparents and let them know. “The moon! It’s true! We really can’t reach it.” The secret behind my daughter’s expert delivery is basically that (1) she was sincerely fascinated with her subject; (2) she spoke the truth; and (3) she framed truth in language that had never occurred to us before.

I don’t see why we preachers can’t say something on a weekly basis that will make more of an impact than my daughter’s observations on astronomy. We have the advantage of the riches of God’s Word. With that as our resource, and with enthusiasm over our subject, loyalty to the Word, and creative analysis, illustration, and application, we should be able to captivate our hearers. That is, if my conclusions about my daughter’s rhetorical skills were right. If it all boils down to cuteness, however, she has us at a disadvantage.
 

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Russell Smith says:

    “Everything pertaining to life and godliness is already there, but people are not going to read the Bible on their own and apply it to life the way they should. If they were doing this, we preachers would be out of a job.”

    You know, I’ve thought this for a long time concerning youth work, but I’ve never said it. The best youth ministers in the world are parents. I understand there are some old timers, and “current timers” who don’t believe in having a youth minister. And I really understand one of the points some of these morons, I mean, people are trying to make. 🙂 If parents were doing their jobs, then there wouldn’t really be anything for me to do. So, I agree!

    I pray I can be a better parent for my kids than I am a youth minister for somebody else’s.

    I really appreciate anybody who thinks of ways to remain fresh and clear, and honestly, sort of, in a good way, naive (I hope you understand what I mean – almost in a genius way of playing dumb! Confused yet?) when trying to teach and apply God’s word to friends and family of God.

    Thank you Drew!

  2. J-Train says:

    Russell,

    WHAT??? Just….WHAT??

    The only thing I understood was when you thanked Drew.

    Love,

    Joel

  3. Russell Smith says:

    If your mind can’t decipher that then I guess it really doesn’t make sense! Nobody else had a chance of knowing what I meant. And now that I look, I’m not sure I do either!

    I’ll work on it…

    Great reply! I’m laughing!

    russ

  4. Matthew says:

    I have dealt with this problem too. I have a paper that I write down sermon ideas so there is always something to preach if I get stuck. Also, I find that on Sunday Night, I always do a series. It is easier to just study the series topic than to think of a new sermon. I feel you brother.

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