I’m beginning to think of my sermons lately as sand mandalas. Without a manuscript, when I’m improvising and going off of notes on little cards or sentence fragments on a page, and I’m not recording what I preach (who likes being recorded?), its an odd feeling. I know I’ve preached a sermon, but I have nothing to show for it really. I know the sermon existed, I know it occurred, but its gone.
I think the high-point of this one was getting a bunch of Presbyterians to shout “help us Jesus!” That was fun. I also got some laughs when I wanted them, and positive feedback from a few people. You never know – its just a sermon after all. They’ll get another one next week that’ll be just as good, have just as much to it – and the week after, and so on. I tend to think of sermons as having an aggregate effect – at best they build upon each other incrementally, mixing within the preachers and the congregation. If they have a big impact, I have no problem calling that a miracle.
My supervisor is still wanting me to be off of notes entirely. I’ll probably give it a shot before the end of the internship. What I really need is about five more hours available to work on it so I can practice coming up with things. I only really got to go through this one, to myself softly, a couple of times – and that was at 4am this morning.
I’m finding that, this Sunday at least, what I came up with for the sermon as I stood there was better than what I had written down. Not better as in more eloquent – I’m sure a transcript of what I said would read like the halting speech of a moron. (Having someone transcribe an extemporaneous talk you give is a recipe for humility) Rather, I just felt like it was better. Like it connected solidly with at least a few people who were listening. They nodded, or smiled to themselves and looked down, the way you do when something hits home and really seems true to you. And I’d say, whatever makes that connection possible is a good thing.