Saturday, April 26, 2008

To Preach Or Not To Preach . . .

So I'm over the flu but today I feel like I could nap and sleep most, if not all, of the day away. But I can't do that. You see, today is Saturday. With tomorrow being Sunday, today I have to ready myself to preach tomorrow. I've got a sermon to finish. I must confess, however, getting back into the groove isn't proving to be easy. I suppose it's the combination of feeling tired today and of having been essentially off work for the better part of two weeks that is making getting to work today more difficult. True, I did spend some time last week working on a sermon that I never finished. So it's really been about a week or so since I've worked. Yet having had no regular work routine for so long makes it feel like it's been more than that.

I also have to decide whether I'm going to finish the sermon I planned on preaching last week when I was sick or am I going to do something else. You would think finishing a sermon already begun would be easier than that something else. But the thought has occurred to me of using an old sermon tomorrow and giving myself more time to work on that almost-done message. I have two reasons for considering this. First, I don't know if I have the energy to work through the sermon I have already started. Like I said, while I'm over the flu, I am tired today. I don't want to produce a half-hearted effort that will disappoint and fall flat.

That leads to my second reason. The sermon that I was working on is a follow-up sermon from the last one. And so I want it to be able to carry the weight it needs to have. I don't want to just say that it needs to be good--but it does, in a way. It also might be the beginning of a new series. I don't want to slough it off. I want to be able to think about it, reflect on it, pray about, etc. Even as I write this, I'm convincing myself that it needs more attention than I can give it today. Those of you out there who are preachers or who have preached know exactly what I mean.

But to take more time to prepare that sermon means preparing a different sermon for tomorrow, and as much as I love bringing something fresh to my congregation I don't know that I want to give them a "Saturday-special," a message that was entirely conceived the day before it was preached. So . . . that means what I guess you can call a recycled sermon. This is the advantage of having sermons on file my present congregation has never heard! It's not my favourite option but it works on a few levels.

Are there pastors out there who have done this? I'd love to know. Have you ever preached an old sermon to a new congregation for a similar reason or for a completely different reason? What do you think of the notion? Do you think God can take an old message and use it again? Not to compare our sermons with Scripture, but certainly that's what happens there. Paul wasn't writing to us. But what he wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit certainly speaks to us. Knowing that this is true gives me some measure of confidence that my congregation can still be blessed by my message, even if they're not the first ones who've heard it!

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