Thursday, January 18, 2018

My Grandfather's Sermon Writing Process

Last night I discovered more hurricane damage.  My roll top desk sits under a window, and that window had been shuttered during Hurricane Irma.  I assumed no water could get in, but over the past month, I've discovered otherwise.  The envelopes at the top of the desk looked rained on, for example, but I rarely use envelopes anymore, so I didn't discover this fact until mid-December.

As I sorted through piles last night, I realized that water had gotten into one of the piles.  It was dry on top, so I didn't think to look through the pile.  In my defense, there was lot to do in the days after the hurricane, and no power with which to see.

Now the surface of the desk has a few ripples.  I am feeling such guilt about that.  I get this beautiful furniture from my grandmother's estate, and I can't properly care for it. 

I've written more about the roll top desk in this blog post on my creativity blog.  But here on my theology blog, I also want to remember that long ago, my grandfather wrote his sermons on that desk.  I come from a long line of writers, although the larger world may not see it that way.

But think about that writing discipline.  My grandfather, as far as I know, never recycled sermons, although I'm sure various themes surfaced again and again.  He wrote a new sermon every week.  I'm sure he wrote other things too:  articles for the newsletter, letters to the editor that appeared in local papers, letters to his family members, all the types of writing that don't seem important enough to be saved.

Did he write longhand?  I assume so.  The final step in his process was typing the sermon onto a folded sheet of paper:

He knew that he needed to keep the content confined to 4 sides of paper.  His sermons rarely spilled onto a new sheet of paper.

I've read some of his sermons, and I must confess, they don't appeal to me.  They explicate the Bible passage for the day, and they do it well--so I do understand their usefulness to a congregation in the middle of the 20th century that wouldn't have had much education or training in literary/Biblical analysis.  For me, I want more depth.

As I cycled through despair last night after discovering the hurricane damage, part of that despair was over something more existential than the way rain can damage wood.  My grandfather wrote week after week, and now he is gone.  We only have a few of his sermons.  We only have a few people left on earth who remember him at all--most of his parishioners are long dead too. 

We are here for such a short time, and it's so easy to let the days and years slip by.  Let us now resolve to stay resolute and seize joy as we go along.  

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