A Sermon Construction Methodology
Often a sermon is a testimony of where I am in God today – i.e. what I discern to be the meaning of/in my life today in/thru/because of God. Perhaps every sermon which is in any way autobiographical in nature has this element. Sometimes, though, the entire sermon is built upon this one premise – or at least one facet of it. When this is the case, the following might be a useful approach to beginning the preparation.
- “Where I am today.” Tell me what is true of your life today. “It might interest you to know that….” “Something you may not know about me is….” “You all may have noticed that….” Humbly declare the truth of your present experience – so far as you are able to see and understand it.
- “Where it started.” This can be tricky, as each of us could go back to our own birth, or the birth of our parents, etc. Now and then this may be called for, but in particular what we need to know is when you started on ‘this leg of the journey’. “Three years ago, I was like this, or believed this, or behaved this way. Then, something happened.” Was it dramatic, or gradual? What or whom, if you know, were the catalysts in the transformation? If you don’t know, then state that too, so that if I don’t know all the catalysts in my own transformation, I realize the change is not thereby negated.
- “Along the way…” Tell me about the journey from there to here – painful or joyful (or both) communal or solitary. Point out one or two of the highlights along the way – milestones, landmarks much like the altars that Israel would build each time they encountered God in a particular way – they would stack up uncut stones, and rename the place after their encounter.
- “And so today…” Restate what you believe is true of you today as a result of that journey – and invite me to discover what might be true of me also.
Along the way, scripture is important as a ground and source of truth. Your goal is not to proof-text (using a text to prove your point) but rather to tell us how you believe the text shed’s light, gives insight or clarity, changes your perspective on the situation. AND/OR tell us how your experience opened up a new meaning of the text – one which was always there, but hidden from your veiled eyes. You may begin with the text before #1, or you may weave it into your story, or both.
NOTE: This process works equally well with fictional or parabolic stories or true non-autobiographical ones.