This tradition continued when I went to seminary and started serving three small rural churches in southern Indiana. I would struggle with a sermon or, even worse, have NO IDEA what I was going to preach on, and so I would go to sleep, and wake up with the entire sermon in my head. All I had to do was sit and write it.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t done the work beforehand. I went to a Presbyterian seminary and was schooled in how to do exegesis. I took Greek, Hebrew, Old Testament and New Testament Exegesis, and basic preaching. I knew how to do the outline, how to make the connections, to check commentaries, to read in other translations, to check the context, to talk with other pastors in my lectionary group, and to journal my own thoughts during the week before I get to that point. I did all of these things … but I believe it is the Holy Spirit residing in my mattress that does the real work.
At first my family didn’t understand how this worked. My immediate family came down to celebrate my first Christmas as a pastor with me. (I am one of 8 children, and everyone came except one sister and her husband … it was a full house!) About mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve I still had not finished my sermon and was busy preparing dinner. My family freaked out, “Tricia, don’t you need to go to your office (in the next room) and write your sermon?” “No,” I’d reply, “I’ll go take a nap in a little while, and it will be fine.” Read more