Sunday, July 30, 2006

Writing sermons, growing tobacco, picking corn

We've talked of moving. Leaving this rural area to claim our place in the noise and business of the Triangle. The allure of the RTP with all it's sights and sounds and promises can be intoxicating. We are on the outskirts. Raleigh is forty minutes by car, while driving to Durham will cost you 1/2 hour of time. But, it is not the same as being there. Especially, when being there seems to be the goal of many who deem themselves successful.

While the RTP with all it's benefits grows and prospers the rural areas of Eastern N.C. are in transition. Tobacco farming is dying. It is in the last few hours of earthly existence. The farmers and trades that depended on the crop of gold are looking for other alternatives. But with the poorness of the soil in this part of the state the outlook by many are grim. Plus, the government money trading hands since the 40's is gone and many farmers find themselves for the first time in a freemarket.

I could go on about the future of Eastern N.C., but, that is not what this essay is about.

I begin my sermon preparation on Sunday afternoon. I think about the scripture for the next Sunday. I may read it. I may pray over it. I begin thinking of stories and illustrations. I find other writers and read them on the topic. I look at the outlines and manuscripts from other pastors and preachers. I think and read all week. Sometimes I make notes, sometimes I write an outline, sometimes I fret and worry and sometimes I eat Ben&Jerry's Ice Cream. But always, in the middle of the thinking and praying and reading I come with something to say each week. My preparation is very organic and living. By Sunday morning I have lived with the text for hours. I chew over the words and meanings and gain spiritual food for myself and hopefully for those around me.

For this reason I LOVE Sunday mornings. I have several hours to read, study, write and many times like this morning, "goof-off". We are having a cook-out after the service this morning. My wife wanted fresh corn. She asked me to go and pick 20 ears or so for lunch. At first I was hesitant..."I must study", but then I realized the freedom I have in my preaching and life. It is a natural, organic, living part of who I am. My youngest daughter and I sallied into the corn field and picked corn on a Sunday morning before church. It was living, real, totally stimulating. I began to think of Jesus and His boys cruising through the grain fields on the Sabbath eating as they walked. There I was, with my daughter re-creating an event in the life of Jesus. I remembered His words, the controversy, His answers.

God may speak to many in the toil of long hours pouring over preaching and teaching tools. He speaks to me in a corn field. In rural N.C. Picking corn. With my daughter. On Sunday morning. When I should be writing a sermon.

The lights of RTP don't look as bright this morning!!

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