This morning I've just about knocked my sermon into an acceptable shape... the third attempt is, I have decided, OK. Not my best sermon ever. Not my worst sermon ever. A bread-and-butter kind of a sermon, and that's OK.
It used to be easy to produce good sermons way back when I began to preach - there were long lead times and plenty of opportunity to mull over ideas and pray for inspiration. It wasn't too bad when I was a student, usually only preaching once a fortnight (almost always in the same place) which still left lots of time to ponder, write, re-write and re-invent. Then it was the two sermons a week phase, which began to erode some of the creativity as deadlines could not be avoided - Sunday arrived every week, bang on time, and something had to be delivered, twice. It was a relief to revert to one a week (when the two services were combined) and to have time to craft, revise and hone my sermons - some were pretty good (or they seem it when I look back).
Fifteen years since I began to preach frequently as well as regularly, and in the last few weeks I've once again become aware how easy it is to slip into some kind of diligent and worthy but not very inspired sermon-writing. Read the passage, study the commentaries... and write a competent exegesis...add a bit of application... but that's not a sermon.
In the end, what I have this week is a broadly expository type sermon, which is pretty much my default mode - suits my scientific mind, takes account of the exegesis and hopefully offers something worth pondering to the hearer.
This is not a grumble, nor is it a sense of 'burn out', just a recognition of how easy it is to end up in some sort of a rut, unthinkingly churning out stuff that people are sufficiently generous to listen to but that lacks a certain "je ne sait quoi". I am enjoying myself working systematically through the start of Mark's gospel, and have learned loads in the process - but that isn't ever going to be enough, sermons are not lessons.
Thankfully, preaching and the creation of acts of worship remains a geniune mystery (mysterion) and the links and hints emerge unbidden as the musicians and intercessors play their part, as the people of God become the Body of Christ, as, depsite our clay-footed, ham-fisted endeavours it works. And I guess, ultimately, that's more important than whether I consider my sermons to be good, bad or indifferent!