It’s really rather funny, as I read all of these texts and articles and books on how to write a sermon. The most useful about the process, for me, thus far has been Eugene Lowry’s The Homiletical Plot. Not because I particularly like his type of sermon (narrative), but rather because he goes through the process of how one gets from a sermonic idea to writing a sermon. And I laugh, because I have a very particular process.
First, I read the lessons from the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church. We’ll be beginning Year B with this coming Sunday, starting the year with Advent. In this way, we work our way through the Bible every 3 years. The lessons and psalms are matched, so we generally have an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading. So, I start with the readings. If there is a passage I’m unfamiliar with, or want to get better insight, I take a look at some exegesis of that passage – what’s the literary style, the historical context, the cultural context, the specific words being used, and where else within the Bible do some of those specific words appear?
Generally, I’ll let all that percolate for a day or two, and then, depending on the time of year, I’ll do one of two things: take a shower (as opposed to a bath, where I can take a book or writing materials), or mow the lawn. Neither of these, of course, are conducive to being able to write anything down – my normal method of figuring out what I’m thinking. It causes my mind to play with ideas, without writing them down, until I finally reach the “Aha!” moment, where it all comes together, and I can go, sit and write down the sermon.
Personally, I like to think that my conversations with God, along with inspiration from the Holy Spirit comes into play here, but either way, those are the two areas where those conversations are most likely to occur in such a way as to inspire the sermon.
My method works for me. I’m quite certain that others like the outlining, crafting, cut/paste method used by so many preachers until they have put together a sermon word by painful word. Likely, they are much more talented than myself. But that’s okay. As long as I don’t bore myself to tears, the congregation should be at least marginally pleased, or irritated, or thoughtful, or fired up, etc.