I usually begin my preparation for Sunday morning on the previous Sunday evening. Exhausted but filled with the Spirit from spending time with God’s people, I open the Bible app on my iPad and read the scripture for the week to come. Then I close my eyes and drift off to sleep next to my beloved wife of thirty-three years with the scripture laying on the floor beside me.
Just being, just waiting for the puppy to bark…
Serious study usually begins on Tuesday when I lay various translations next to one another and look for differences and similarities. It is often in the differences that I find the Holy Spirit. Rarely are there conclusions. Usually there are only more wonderings and wanderings.
Just being, the puppy dozes nearby…
As I go about my week the scripture follows me like a puppy dog. When I do laundry the puppy cocks its head and looks me directly in the eye. At the grocery store, the puppy runs up to the stranger who smiles reminding me that we all manifest the image of God. When I take a hike — one of my favorite things to do — the puppy nuzzles me and nudges me to look at the scripture as manifest in mother nature. At home, I ramble on to my wife about the cute things the puppy did while she was away at work. “The fascinating thing about this section of Hosea is…” or “The Greek word in this passage is…” I excitedly tell her. “You should’ve seen the puppy today!”
Just being, just finding joy in being with the puppy…
Tuesday evenings or Wednesday mornings I read commentaries. Sometimes I underline or take notes. Other times I just read and allow the Spirit to do the Spirit’s work.
Somewhere in the week, however, sometimes in a conversation with another, sometimes when in prayer, and sometimes at a sporting event, the puppy leaves a ball at my feet. God lays the ball, the movement of my sermon before me. The ball represents a unifying direction or idea for the sermon. It is rarely fully formed. For example, a couple weeks ago it was simply a phrase “throw off the cloak” in response to the story of Bartimaeus’ encounter with Jesus (Mark 10:46-52). This week it was the image of Mary nursing baby Jesus.
Just being, just leaving room for the One who loves unconditionally to speak…
Then Saturday morning comes and, having not yet picked up the puppy’s ball, I wake earlier than usual. The metaphorical puppy barks and I can’t fall back asleep. It’s as if God is at the foot of the bed saying, “C’mon, Tim. We’ve got much to do today. Pick up the ball and run with it!” What I know is that this is the time to put my hands on the keyboard. This is the time to pick up the slobbery ball.
I shower and dress hurriedly and eat breakfast. The puppy dances around me excited that I’m about to play with the ball. I’m about to run with the unifying idea. Arriving in my workspace, I light a candle and incense to remind me that this is not my message but God’s message. Within three to four hours a formed sermon is drafted. Satisfied and content, the puppy snoozes in the sunbeam coming through the window.
This process cannot be rushed. If I try to start writing on Wednesday, no sermon comes. If I seek to impose my own agenda, to control the process, I may write words but they are mine and they are uninspired.
I wonder if this process is a metaphor for life. What if trying to control our experiences of God, makes it impossible for us to hear God? What if trying to control our lives, only makes it impossible for us to be who we were created to be? What if we need to just chill with the puppy for awhile? What if we need to spend more time being and leave more room for the Spirit to do the Spirit’s work?
Just being, just leaving room for the One who loves unconditionally to nudge us toward the path of love.