Greeting and welcome to Ask the Matriarch! I’m filling in for a few weeks, so I have two requests:
1) Bear with me
2) If I’m not doing this the right way, please let me know!
On to the question for the day:
I'm a pre-Seminarian (hoping to start in August), and I'm getting plenty of ministry practice time in at my home church. The sermons I've preached thus far have been for specific dates – Ash Wednesday, Mother's Day, etc. which have provided clear direction for sermon topics. My pastor doesn't use the lectionary, and only occasionally does a sermon series. Starting in September, I'll likely get a turn in the pulpit every 4-6 weeks.
This means that if I have a random Sunday to cover (like I do on July 15), I have no parameters. Freeing, on the one hand, but without years of experience and training to draw on, it's a little intimidating. I'd love 2-3 approaches to answering the question "what are you going to preach?"
Answering the last question first, PPB offers this:
I had a lovely friend in seminary--one of those seersucker suits with bow ties and a honey-sweet accent---who used to answer the question, "what are you going to preach about" with this. "sin...........(long pause)..........I'm against it."
As for the bulk of the question, there appear to be two main suggestions.
1) Preach the lectionary anyway.
PPB suggests, “It doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing. Just choose to use it yourself. The reason I recommend this (even though I am in no way married to the lectionary myself) is that you can make yourself crazy choosing a text otherwise, and you have more things to worry about than what text you're going to choose. Once you pick the text, the sermon is about the Bible. So your answer to "what are you preaching on?" is Luke 15, or Psalm 25. The only trick to using the lectionary when the other pastor isn't is you run the risk of duplicating one of his texts--so just ask---"I'm wanting to preach on this text in October, and this on in December--I'm just checking to be sure they don't overlap with what you're doing?"
Jan thinks that, “The lectionary is a great tool for teaching, especially during advent, lent. You could introduce ‘the suggested lessons of the day’ and start a revolution. “
2) Create your own sermon series.
Jan: “You could also preach a series like a serial novel -- they only get new episodes every 4-6 weeks. And this may not be as disruptive as it sounds. For example, I know a pastor who preached a series on addiction using one of the twelve steps once/month. On "his Sunday" he preached on one of the 12, and being so intense, it was probably better for the congregation to hear these sermons once a month rather than 12 weeks in a row. You could preach a series on "stories nobody ever preaches" which could also be intense (I'm thinking of Phyllis Trible's Texts of Terror) and better in small doses than every week for several weeks.”
And PPB: “Choose a sermon series for yourself, and then people will know that when the intern preaches, it will be her/his series on "women in the Bible" or "Psalms". By and large,though, I think this is harder to do than just running with the lectionary. I did, though, spend one year covering a church on the first Sunday of every month (and 3 others took turns with the other Sundays), and I just did a Psalm sermon every single time. I happened to choose the lectionary Psalm, but the folks did sort of know what to expect and even started requesting favorite psalms. It can be done.
The common advice? Enjoy this preaching opportunity.
So how about the rest of you? Other suggestions?
I’ve been a lectionary preacher for more than ten years, but the Head of Staff at my intern church (an excellent preacher) thought the lectionary was a crutch. So how about it?