I had a rather strange experience this week as I prepared for today’s message. I simply could not determine what to preach this morning. I worked on about five different texts this week. I started the week with Psalm 139 on my schedule to preach. Today is “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.” And I thought that Psalm 139 would be an appropriate exposition. But when I got to work Monday morning, I knew that would not be what I preach. I don’t think I am ready to do an exposition of a psalm with twenty-four verses in one setting. I know my limitations. So I passed on that one.
The staff usually knows what I plan to preach for the entire month. But when we began to review our plans in Monday’s staff meeting, I was still uncertain. I had planned to do an message on Matthew 11:1-6, during our “Vision Night” service on Wednesday. But during staff meeting, I decided that I was going to do a “State of the Church Address,” and do the exposition of Matthew 11 today. But by the time I had to give my full attention to Sunday on Thursday morning, I had decided to do an exposition of Mark 5:25-34, the story of the Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood. But when I woke up Friday morning, I knew that I would not be preaching Mark 5. Friday morning, the heat was on. I had to land on something to give myself enough time to fully prepare. I had these several passages that I had done work on. I just needed to land somewhere. Eventually, I began to study Psalm 131, a short three-verse psalm of David. I spent all of Friday studying it, even though I had a feeling that it would not be what I would preach. Late Friday evening and early Saturday morning, I finalized a “Sermon Skeleton” on Psalm 131. A “Sermon Skeleton” is a framework that I organize before I actually write out my manuscript. It consists of my title, text, theme, point, transitional sentences, and outline. I try to make sure I have this complete before I start writing, so that I have a sense of where I am going when I begin my actual writing of the manuscript.
I had a Church Council meeting Saturday morning. When it was over, I had a long afternoon lunch with my wife, Crystal. I wasn’t feeling well, so I took a long nap after lunch. It was late evening when I finally woke up. Still not feeling well, I simply went back to sleep – sure that I was to preach, but still unsure of what I would preach. When I woke up early this morning, I was pretty clear that I was going to preach Romans 5:3-5! I had been meditating on this passage all week. I knew all week that it was an option for me to preach, but it was not high on the list. I first preached this text when I was 18-years-old. I think I called it, “Problems with a Purpose.” So I knew the text. So I just organized the main ideas of the message and preached it this morning. The message was not as tightly or obviously organized as I usually strive for. And I don’t think my presentation of it was the most compelling, even though I do think it was clear. I hope, trust, and pray that the congregation was helped by the message.
Thus ends the “Great Sermon Chase of 2006.” I don’t usually have weeks like this. I am usually very clear about what I am going to preach. In fact, as I write this post, I am clear about what I going to preach this coming Wednesday and Sunday, if the Lord allows. I don’t know what was up with me this week. I just pray that I don’t have another week like this again any time soon, if ever. My plan to get into a sermon series in February should help. Should I have preached today? Should I have just stuck with one of the other passages I was studying and saw it through to its completion? What caused me to finally land on Romans 5? Good questions all. So good that I don’t have any answers to them. I am confident, however, that the providence of God has been been in full control of these matters this week. May the sermon chase me to the pulpit this week, rather than the other way around.