Manson's Memo - 30 years of sermons
Recently, I’ve been reorganizing the files with all my past sermons in them. My files go back to sermons I preached while I was still in seminary. In the process I get to see what I’ve preached the last 30 years. Occasionally there is a surprise.
For example, a few weeks ago when I preached on John 10:11-18 in which Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd,” it was the first time I had ever preached on that. Now, this is not some obscure text out of Nahum that is easy to overlook. This is one of the key images of Jesus in the gospels. But in all these thirty years, whenever that story came up in the lectionary, I picked something else. I have no idea why.
There are other texts that I may have five or more sermons on – all of them different. Maybe the other lessons for those weeks seem more difficult to preach on, or maybe I just like those texts. Even though the various sermons are on the same scripture, they end up different because there is so much to find in what the Bible teaches us.
I once heard that John Wesley through away every sermon after 7 years, because if he couldn’t preach better than that now, there was a problem. Well, I expect some of my best sermons are old, and some are new. But it’s not about how I preach. I keep them all to remind myself of all the ways we can hear something new, no matter how many times we’ve heard a scripture, or (as with John 10) how important it can be to not overlook what is there.