The sermon is never complete until the last word is said and people stand and sing. No matter how much I prepare, study, and wrestle over what needs to be said or how to say it…the sermon is never done until it is done.
In order to make the sermon fit better into the rest of the service we try to theme our worship service around a central idea. That idea is presented in the welcome, carried out through the songs and finally expressed through the sermon. Our hope is that what we communicate comes through not just in the spoken word but through all that we do. Second, we hope people can find the thread that runs through the service (as we tell them up front what it is) rather than either having random songs or having some mysterious, un-communicated theme that we hope people will be creative enough to uncover on their own.
The second way I try to preach into a meaningful whole is to be as present in the worship experience as I possibly can up to the point of the sermon. That isn’t always easy with two boys (ages 3 & 6) but I do my best to try to be in tune with what is happening and figure out how what others are doing, saying and praying informs what I need to say. Are there things that are said that need to be referenced back to in the sermon? Is God connecting some dots for the sermon in the life of the church in the moments leading up? I try to keep my eyes and ears open for these things as much as possible. Often, my sermon introduction comes to me in the moments before I stand up to preach because I want to tie in what just happened with what is going to happen in the sermon. I will often reference what was said at the Lord’s Supper or the words of a song that was sung or something that was said or done that morning because it is not just me speaking to them but us living life together that is most important. This removes the ego and helps me realize that God speaks to us in many ways and it is important that we keep in tune with Him and His people as much as possible. People notice…it feels real and authentic because it is.
I still have a lot to learn but these are some of the things that are going into our attempt to connect the sermon to the rest of the worship service so that we are all speaking into the worship experience together.