Last week was one of those weeks. A blur of days, coming off the back of a hectic church weekend away, and in which I had planned to squeeze a couple of conferences (a two-day and a three-day), an hour-long lecture on something I hadn’t thought much about, and various meetings and evening events.
By design, so have no pity.
But, one result was that had to do all of my sermon prep in one solid session, from soup to nuts, with no room for a rewrite or indulge myself with preacher’s block. I don’t think it took less time than usual, but there was no time for the ideas to stew, which was the opposite what I like to do.
And on the way, I learnt some lessons.
God is faithful. He will support us when we lean into him. The flip side, of course, is that he won’t be taken advantage of. But he is our help.
Habits help. Even though I had never prepped this sermon before, I had prepped hundreds of others others. So I knew the sequence to take that would involve the least waste of time, and where I could cut corners if I really had to.
Bibles are brilliant! I think I have kept every Bible I have ever owned, and one of the best ways I have found to boost my thinking is to open them up and look at the notes I’ve made in the margins as I’ve gone along.
Sketch the sequence. I knew how how long I had to rough out the passage how long for commentaries, how long for breaking it down. I also knew that there were some critical moments: I had to have the theme of the passage, and the aim of the sermon clear: unless I had those I would be bluffing.
Work the basics: clarity, faithfulness, relevance, memorability all had to have their turn to strut their staff
Trust the hunch. There’s no specific Bible verse to back this, but I think it is a valid insight that a biblically-soaked brain will have sharper spiritual instincts, and will be more likely to see likely outcomes or dead-ends. So if my hunch told me that pursuing a certain line of application was going to be fruitless, I dropped it.
Pray urgently. God knew that that this is an extraordinary occasion when I couldn’t take the care I normally could, but that his people still needed feeding.
Try differently. Looking back it my diary, it was coming out of a sequence of events so that I couldn’t really have shifted all the prep in advance without hitting something else. At some point I would have had a day like that. I just hope they don’t come too often.
…and breathe. If you were counting, I didn’t get a day off. I hate that, and so do my family. So I’m having a slower pace to recover.
How do you do it?