Today I sit down to write my Easter sermon. My parishioners may be surprised to know that this sermon is one of the hardest to write. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? How do I keep it fresh and engaging? When I finally get over these concerns and start writing, I’m immediately slammed with another issue – how can I say everything that needs to be said and still keep my sermon down to the time I have to talk?
Here is what I remind myself each time I write the Easter message for my congregation.
Each year is different. The idea that I cannot write anything new or different is a fallacy of my limited imagination. The truth is each year is different. My audience is different. There will be people sitting in our pews that have never heard an Easter message in my church before. Even those lifetime members with perfect attendance haven’t heard the Easter sermon for at least 52 weeks. Most importantly I am different.
I am in a unique place in my Christian journey. This year I will reflect on the resurrection story differently than I have in the past or will in the future. The art of sermon writing is not in the uniqueness of observing something never seen before. The art of sermon writing comes from observing the unique way I see the message intertwining with my life and in the life of my congregation.
Write passionately and particularly. Today’s pastors are daily faced with their larger-than-life peers with huge mega-churches or immense television and radio audiences. When I sit down to write today, I will force those self-imposed comparisons out of my mind. The Lord God calls me to preach to this particular congregation in this particular year. Deliberately I think of the man with stage 4 cancer, the woman struggling to breath through her worsening lung disease, the single mom with questioning teenagers, the couple married this year without any family support, the daughter who just buried her beloved dad, and the moms who gave birth since last Easter. No other pastor, no other sermon will reach these loved children of God in quite the same way!
Rest in The Spirit’s Leading. When we pastors get right down to the truth of the matter, it’s not our own cleverness that makes for powerful, life-changing sermons. It’s God’s Holy Spirit working freely through our thoughts (and word processors.) The starting point for the Easter sermon is not the title or the outline. It’s not even the passage of Scripture. The place to start is with the prayer: ‘Forgive me of my sins. Create a clean heart within me. Help me today to hear You. Work through me.’
This is my Super Bowl. Telling the good news story is why I became a pastor. As the old hymn sings, “I love to tell the story!” Telling the good news story on THE Good News day is even better! It’s the biggest single day on the Christian calendar. People will come to church on Easter, even if they don’t come any other Sunday. We have the best news ever to share with them. This is BIG TIME! Even for the small church pastor.
So go ahead and get excited. Give it your best effort. Know that God has called you and will work something special through you, if you allow him. Have fun with it. Rejoice in this moment. It’s special and you won’t have many of them.
Super Bowl victors receive a ring. We receive a crown of life. Even more special, we make it possible for the men and women in our pews to also play in the game and receive their own crowns of life. What could be better?
So don’t be intimated by the bigness of the day. Don’t look upon this sermon writing task with dread. Don’t drag out that old sermon from your file or look to what other pastors have preached. Enjoy this experience with your Lord. Allow Him to bless you as He did in your youth. Forget all the other demands of your day. Get away with your Bible and your writing utensil of choice and watch God do something exciting in your heart and uniquely life-giving in your sermon.