Sunday was quite a day. I was up early to catch the 8 a.m. ferry, had breakfast on the mainland, and then drove in spitting rain north to Mt. Vernon (WA) to preach for the Skagit UU Fellowship.
The sermon, which is reprinted in an earlier post, was about authority--------what is it, what are our UU and individual sources of authority, that sort of thing. Folks seemed to like it a lot, and I left with a good feeling about my time there.
Hopped in the car and drove north a little farther to catch Rt. 20 west onto Whidbey Island, over the Deception Pass Bridge. No traffic to speak of, a mild day, beautiful water, and in a little over an hour, I was home again, to get a little rest before preaching again for UUCWI at 4 p.m.
The chapel where we meet for worship has poor ventilation and, even in the winter, the sanctuary can be stiflingly hot. It didn't help that the outdoor temp was in the high 50's and the sun had come out, but we had a decent crowd of folks, even after the Canvass dinner the night before.
I was about halfway through the sermon when I noticed that many, perhaps most, people seemed to be dozing off. Not a preacher's finest moment! After deliberating for about a second, I stopped the show, told everyone to stand up, turn around, laugh at something, anything, open the windows, open the doors, get some fresh air into the room. The combination of a late night, a warm day, a hot room superceded the message of the sermon!
But you know what? I got more compliments on that sermon than I have gotten on any sermon this year. I don't think it was guilt for falling asleep. Several people told me that they really like it when I put my personal story into a sermon. One woman said she thought it was the best stewardship sermon she'd ever heard. Wow! Quite a compliment.
This month, I've felt a lot of creative energy bubbling up in the sermon department, and I think it's because I've had to write three new sermons for Whidbey just this month.
Most preachers will tell you that they recycle sermons often. I spent four years preaching 32 sermons a year in another pulpit. That's 32 DIFFERENT sermons. When I came to another congregation, I had a reservoir of over 120 sermons to use in my new settlement.
Some of them were too pointedly written for the former congregation, but many of them were applicable to another time and place, with a little tweaking, and over the past four years, I haven't had to write many sermons from scratch. And I eventually got pretty stale, in my opinion.
Some of my best-liked sermons I have used for extra preaching gigs around the district. It's hard to write a sermon from scratch for a congregation I hardly know, but I do know what other congregations have seemed to like, so I do recycle the best ones.
But this month of writing from scratch has been exhilarating, even as it is demanding. I have to make sure I save enough time in the week to pull notes and thoughts together, find the readings, the hymns, and so on. I've loved being back on the sermon-writing track, with the sense of urgency it produces in me.
Looking at my calendar, I notice that I am preaching every Sunday between now and April 22. My first Sunday off will be April 29. And all but one of those sermons will be written during that stretch of time. The exception is when I return to Skagit on April 15 to preach about God, the 4th question in the series, "Who or What is in Charge?" the question of cosmology.
I love the challenge and thrive on it. It pulls the best writing out of me, I think. It's also been useful to spend time writing on the blog. The more writing I do, the better I feel about my writing.