The tyranny of Sunday

The Sunday sermon is a beast that is difficult to handle.  It comes every week and it comes fast.   Each week we are expected to be our best and to preach a sermon that will leave folks moved and challenged.  When we get it right we don’t have much time to celebrate because we have to wake up on Monday and do it again.  When we don’t get it right we have little time to ponder what could have been because Monday is calling. The text is always waiting. The commentaries sit ready.  The screen is blank. Monday after Monday we sit and we begin again.

We preach familiar and similar texts and try to bring new vitality and introduce new perspectives.  We address a congregation that sees our face weekly.  Some have heard almost every sermon.  Some are visiting for the first time and we pondering whether to return.  Folks are tired from a week of work and activity.  They are ready to go and enjoy the rest of the day.  Lunch is waiting. The golf course is out there. And they sit.

They go to movies, concerts, games and they know how to be entertained.  And what we do doesn’t quite fit what they experience everywhere else.

One generation sits that knows their Bibles and is familiar with those texts.  They’ve heard scores of preachers.  Other generations do not read their Bibles and are easily distracted.  Gum wrappers rustle.  Stomachs growl. Phones vibrate on silent. Some yawn. Some smile. Some sleep.

Some of us follow the lectionary.  Others use sermon series or topical themes.  Some of us wear robes. Others business attire. Others dress casual.  We preach in country chapels, gothic buildings, or gymnasiums.

And each week Sunday comes.

We take a breath and we try to say something.  We attempt to connect people to God.  We attempt to offer hope.  We attempt to offer something more than what life offers.

Some want humor.  Some want Bible lessons.  Others want issues addressed. Some want motivational talks. Others want to be comforted.  Different ears and different expectations are in every pew.

Some will shake the preacher’s hand and give a word of encouragement.  Sometimes an anonymous note will appear giving the sermon a review or scolding the pastor.  Sometimes a thank you note might appear.  On rare occasions a person might stop and talk about the sermon said to them.  Emails might pop up with comments. Usually little is said about the sermon and more about the weather or the game the night before.

The doors close.  We go to the study to get our coat.  We place our Bibles on the desk.  Lunch is waiting. And when we wake up we have to do it all over again.

Derik Hamby

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Dr. Derik Hamby serves as pastor of Randolph Memorial Baptist in Madison Heights, Va. He enjoys history, religion, movies, music, and pop culture.

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  • jcobban

    Hello Derek — from Louisville.   Having just finished this Sunday’s sermon (by Thursday at 12:30 p.m.–it’s a miracle!)  I understand this routine all too well.  Though many of my colleagues live for the preaching and die by the work, for me it is the opposite.  The sermon is the price I pay for getting to do the rest of the work.  I hope your church is doing well and you are thriving.  BTW, this cycle explains to my family why I love 10 p.m. on Sunday night and have so much energy!  The hardest part of the week is over!!

  • James4444

    Hello Derek and jcobban- from Northern Minnesota.   You described my experience to a T.   I think of it and say it like this,  Sundays march relentlessly on.   jcobban,  I am more like you too, not disliking preaching but wanting everything else done before feeling I can relax to work on the sermon.  So, yes, Thursday prep finishes are miraculous for me too.  I think too,  our audience can see world class entertainment 24/7, with the push of a button.  Its hard to compete with that.   Well,  no more time to chat.  See you Sunday afternoon.