From within

I am experiencing a strange phenomenon.

Thursday mornings is a time I set aside to write sermons.  I spend a hour or so in my office; working with my secretary to make sure the worship bulletin in completed then I head out to continue sermon prep (I say "continue" because sermon prep take place all week long).  I continue my sermon prep in the sanctuary where I can get away from all distractions so I can focus on the Word God needs me to preach to the people.  I stand up front (and after praying) and I look out into the pews and imagine people sitting out there.  To my left (the pulpit side) towards the back sits Ken and Janet.  My wife sometimes sits on that side as well (but she does not have her "own pew").  On my right side (organ side) towards the front sits Lyle with Pete, Mazie and Vicki just in front of him.  In the far back on the organ side is the section for families with young children (that can be a zoo sometimes, but I never notice until a parent apologizes to me for their noisy child).  In the last pew on the pulpit side (along the outside wall) sits Sylvia and Virgil…

…and I could continue on and on…giving you a fairly accurate seating chart of a typical Sunday morning, but I won't bore you with that.  My point is that I look out and see people sitting out there and I imagine their lives and ask God, "What do they NEED to hear from you?"  This helps me in some strange way.  But I guess this is only right because as a preacher, we come FROM WITHIN the congregation, not from OUTSIDE the congregation.  We should imagine our people's lives because that is how we are faithful in the craft of preaching.  Otherwise we are nothing more than a disconnected lecturer trying to communicate some truth that does not matter to their lives right now.  So I try to be faithful.

Now…as I write this…I am taking a sermon writing break.  Where?  Well…I am downtown at my favorite coffee place.  I am set up in the corner with my lap top, a cup of coffee and an empty tray that once contained a delicious chicken cordon blu sandwich.  I have been here for about 1 1/2 hours, but I am not alone.  This small coffee shop is filled with people talking about this or that; talking about their lives or the latest gossip.  This is definitely not a place to find peace and quite, but yet I HAVE found peace and quiet.

What a strange phenomenon…

…but maybe this is not so strange after all.  Because as a preacher I come from WITHIN the congregation.  And isn't this the congregation…here in this coffee shop..or wherever?  The "congregation" is not contained in a building…rather…it's "out there".  So if this is the congregation, then this is definitely an okay place to be.  In my office I feel disconnected.  Here…I feel connected.

The murmur of voices are still floating in the air, but they don't bother me; rather…they inspire me.  So with that…I return to my craft…from within God's people.


6 thoughts on “From within

  1. LawAndGospel

    I really enjoyed this insightful posting. In my limited time preaching, I agree with your process. I too spend the week with the text- with God and with the people. This post proves that in the Heart of a Pastor is love for God’s people.

  2. David

    My spot that I have found is the coffee shop in our local Barnes and Noble book store. I sometimes get stuck when connecting the story of our congregation to the story of the world, but I can almost always find an interesting illustration as I watch the world go by. In the spirit of your post, I sometimes take such outtings so that I can find such illustrations to remind the congregation that we are not outside the world, but within the world.

    Common denominator of course is coffee!

  3. Pastor Eric

    This routine of going to Coffee Choices to write the sermon is a relatively new one for me, but I am really liking it. Part of me wants to say it is the coffee that makes this routine “successful”, but we all know better.

    But I am sure the coffee doesn’t hurt 🙂

  4. Diane

    oh yes, this is ABSOLUTELY inside the congregation. I’m wondering if this coffee place is the one my aunt took us to 🙂 They do have a great atmosphere AND coffee. We had good sandwiches too.

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