Yesterday, I started a series of posts about how I arrive at a sermon for Sunday morning. I normally have 3-5 times a year that I preach on a Sunday, and this weekend happens to be one of those occasions. Today I thought I would share some of my tips for choosing a passage of Scripture.
There are two choices right at the very beginning: will I be using an assigned passage or choosing one on my own? I have had opportunities for both. Last year, Kyle preached thorough the Gospels and so when it was my turn to fill-in, I continued the pattern. That meant that I had 7 readings from the Dayword blog to choose from. There was one other pre-Athens sermon that I used a pre-chosen passage from the Lectionary. The Lectionary is a calendar of readings that is used by Episcopal, Catholic, Anglican, and some other faith traditions. While having to use an assigned passage might seem limiting at first, there is a freedom to knowing well in advance what you will be studying.
When I have the ability to choose whatever Scripture I would like, I usually first ask myself two questions:
- What have I been reading lately?
- What has God been teaching me?
Most of the time, I preach on the answer to one or both of these questions. In fact, if I can’t come up with a satisfactory answer to either of these, then I probably need to ask myself if I should stand up in front of a group and try to teach at all. I believe that the best sermons are born well in advance of when they are delivered; this is why personal study is so important. Teaching what I’m learning also raises my personal passion and engagement in the sermon. If I have to teach on a prescribed topic, there is the chance that a sermon might seem forced and not from the heart.
Other sources of inspiration might include:
- Books I’ve been reading
- Other Sermons (not to copy or plagiarize – but sometimes hearing someone else illuminate Scripture can lead me to new thoughts and ideas)
- News and Current Events
- Blogs (check my blogroll – lots of good thinkers there)
Once you’ve settled on a text, next it’s time to do some research and study. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.