Step 9: the opening words.
Honestly, sometimes, I write the opening words section last. Sometimes, like with this one, I write them to help me focus my attention for the larger part of writing in the sermon. If you have ever worshiped with me, at least lately, you will notice that I like to frame each worship service with some opening words. I think these can help to focus people’s attention, by giving them something to begin to think about.
For example, for this sermon, the words I began with were the following:
So, places, places matter.
Some places matter more than others; just a small observation.
My wife and I were watching a dvd the other night; one that had the commercials for other movies coming out. And, it dawned on me, thinking about Jacob resting his head on that pillow that you can tell a lot about a story based on the place.
So, the previews and their places. Stalingrad? Betting not too peaceful. Pompei? Betting it doesn’t end well? And, America.
Well? The last one is the most tricky.
Conflicting emotions on that one; I bet.
Each time I lead a service: I like to paint a picture, put up some sign posts, to sort of help frame where we’re going this morning.
This morning: places and the meanings they bring.
Step 10: the draft and the revision.
I write like I speak. This is a problem for the grammar police, but a gift for the preacher in me. My sentences are short and my paragraphs shorter. I use simple words, which I can spell, and can easily say. Some of this was drummed into me during my years as a daily newspaper reporter; some of it is probably just how I am.
Since, this is about process; I often listen to classical music, when I write. Sometimes, I will listen to things I have heard a thousand times before, meaning that its better I write when no one else is home. (I imagine the third time threw the same Christmas CD would get annoying. Yes. I listen to Christmas CDs all year long.)
This sermon took three drafts. They all weren’t totally different. The drafts function sort of as stops and starts of times of writing. I had a little more time to play with this piece, so this allowed me to try a few different things.
The challenge came from this sermon being written for a pulpit supply, meaning a congregation I didn’t know and one I really knew very little about. This makes it difficult to decide how much, or how little, of the background bible and theological knowledge to sprinkle into the piece. When I started writing sermons, I tended to err on leaving this sort of stuff out, but now my experience has shown me that congregations are hungry for some of the basic knowledge.
(At least, they seem to put on their thinky faces when some of that stuff comes out.)
That’s pretty much it.
I’ll include a link to the full text, just in case you want to see how this fit.
To my readers: thanks for following along.