Life is scattered with stimulating fragments. This week I read the provocative question on Twitter:
“Is there a place for boredom in sermon prep?”
The tweet went on to quote Sherry Turkle:
“Boredom is your imagination calling to you.”
Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to use the word ‘boredom’ in the same breath as the word ‘sermon’. After all, we don’t want to start giving our congregation ammunition for their dissatisfaction.
The opening talk on the Alpha course, which tackles those well-known objections to Christianity, that it is “Boring, Irrelevant or Untrue.”
Preachers will not engage the imagination of their congregations if they themselves are bored with the process of sermon preparation.
When as preachers we seek to follow the apostolic direction ‘to preach the word in season and out of season’ we need to recognise it can be as much about the seasons of our present mood as it is of the prevailing mood of our culture.
I was interested to read a piece in the paper last week about Monty Don, the main presenter on BBC’s popular Gardener’s World:
“For the record, at the risk of disillusioning millions, I always at about this time of the year think that I would like a break from gardening, I would like to not see my garden for a month or two. There comes a point when I think, ‘Actually, I don’t want to talk about gardening, I don’t want to think about gardening. I want to go and read a book on something else and watch a match on telly.”
Likewise, some preachers staring at a blank screen in their sermon preparation find it difficult to summon up the enthusiasm to tackle yet another Bible passage.
Sometimes our text does not immediately speak to the present situation of our congregation. Could this be an invitation to our imagination to make connections between this text and our context?
Recently I was preaching two sermons on Galatians chapter 2 for the Communitas International Church in Riga. The context of a congregation made up of mainly 20 somethings from more than a dozen nations was very different from the one that Paul addressed in Galatia.
At first I struggled to make connections, but eventually was able to see links between the ancient text and my contemporary scene. The clarity came for me when I took a break from staring at the blank screen. All work and no play can make Jack’s sermons dull. Take a walk, read a poem, listen to a piece of music, or just sit still.
Perhaps at times momentary boredom is an invitation to press on until a spark ignites our imagination and everything becomes clearer. In the spirit of the brilliantly creative author of Psalm 119:
“Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your law.” (Psalm 119:18)
At times we need the divine author of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit, to breathe fresh understanding and appreciation of Scripture into our hearts and minds.
Preacher: diagnose the root of your boredom and take the appropriate remedial action.