This week I’d like to go green and consider the notion of recycling sermons. We’ll touch on different aspects of this broad subject over the next few days (although there may be a quiet day or two as we have a baby imminently joining the family!) To get us started, two fundamental thoughts:
Ever Old – Every sermon we preach is made of recycled materials. All of us are standing on the shoulders of the giants who’ve gone before us (and sadly some are standing on the shoulders of non-giants too). If I stop to think about it, as I prepare a message, I am in the debt of so many people, and I never have new source material.
Ever Old Influences: As I think about yesterday’s two messages, there are too many influences to name. My mind scans over the preachers I have heard over the years, the professors at seminary who taught me how to handle the Bible, who taught through those particular books in survey or exegesis courses, who taught me the languages, who taught me homiletics and theology and pastoral ministry, etc. I think of the conversation partners I turned to in the form of commentaries, and the footnotes attest to some of those that influenced them. I could go on, but you see my point. I’ve preached hundreds of messages, probably into the thousands, and it would be a bit self-aggrandizing to suggest that I have generated more than a few truly original thoughts.
Ever Old Material: While I pulled out a few illustrative elements for yesterday (and didn’t look them up in an anthology of distant impersonal illustrations), the bulk of the material was the Word of God.We must be ever wary of the temptation to think our thoughts, be they original or probably not, are somehow better source material than the ever living Word of God! Yesterday in the course of my preaching I returned to texts that I’ve preached in this church in the past year, and without apology. We need to hear God’s Word.
Always New – Every sermon we preach is new. The text of Scripture doesn’t change, but everything else does. The preacher can never stand still. Either the preacher has grown, or the preacher has stagnated and changed negatively, but life never stands still. Two congregations can never be the same in constituents or their circumstances, even if it is the same church. The situation is always fresh. Different preacher, different listeners, different occasion, different set of needs. I suppose, in theory, I could preach the same text in the same church once a month for the next several years and never preach an identical sermon.
Tomorrow we’ll probe a bit beyond this foundational level as we seek to be good stewards of a preaching ministry.