Sermonize /ser-muh-niz/ (verb) 1. To compose or deliver a sermon. 2. To deliver an opinionated and dogmatic talk to someone. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
I sermonize 46 weeks out of the year. To put it another way: In my role as the primary preacher at my church, I get six Sundays off annually. That’s a lot of sermonizing.
And if you look closely at the two possible definitions of the word “sermonize” gleaned from the dictionary, you will inevitably find yourself wondering, “How many of those 46 moments of sermonizing result in an opinionated and dogmatic talk rather than an actual sermon?” I would like to think that “zero” would be the answer to that question. But I am sure that after sermonizing 46 times a year I probably deliver more opinionated, dogmatic talks than I would like to admit.
The question arises then, “When you are sermonizing 46 times a year, how do you keep from slipping into simply delivering a ‘talk’? How do you stay creative and vibrant, engaging and interesting?” The simple answer is: You work at it … really, really hard. As it is with most things in life, the harder you work at creative sermonizing, the easier it looks to others when you pull it off.
What I’ve come to understand is that creativity in sermonizing is a restorative act — both for the preacher and for the listener. When I am intentionally seeking creative ways to preach, to shape sermons, to form sermon series and the like, I soon find my passion for what I am preaching increases, my enthusiasm becomes contagious and the sermons are much more memorable.
Typically, I plan my sermons 6-8 months in advance. For the past two years I preached primarily from the lectionary, but I still grouped the sermons together in series and worked on creative ways to teach them. Next year I am doing topical sermons that will be themed for the particular month within which they fall.
Because I know basically what I’ll be preaching for several months, my creative antennae are up throughout the year. I am more likely to be looking for images, videos, television shows, movies, etc. that will add to sermons, sermon series or even worship. I read a variety of online magazines including Zite and Reverb that feed me stories on a variety of topics, many of which find their way into my sermons and series. And of course, I am always on the prowl for books to read that speak to me as well.
What I’ve discovered is that I am constantly (though often subconsciously) looking for creative ways to preach rather than just deliver a talk. I’ve also discovered that rather than seeing Sunday mornings as the moment when I have to say something, I can’t wait until Sunday mornings because I actually have something to say.
In the end, this kind of creative sermonizing restores my soul and helps me connect with the sermons I’m delivering in an authentic, gut-level way. As a result, the sermon has the potential to be an event rather than lecture — a creative act that hopefully continues for my congregation long after the benediction and all-you-can-eat buffet lunches after church.
LEON BLODER is a preacher, a poet, a would-be writer, a husband, a father, a son, a dreamer, a sinner, a pastor, a fellow-traveler and a failed artist. He is talentless, but well-connected. He is also pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Eustis, Florida.