Which didn't stop me from preaching from a manuscript for years. Years! And there are some good things about it. For one, if people want a copy of your sermon, you can give it to them. For another, it allows for complete consistency from one service to the next. For another, it makes it easier to use very specific words or phrases that are sometimes more interesting or compelling: words or phrases you wouldn't come up with on the top of your head. Finally, and this is both positive and negative, using a manuscript means you don't (necessarily) have to do the verbalizing preparation that notes require because you know all the words are there. And I hate the verbalizing practice--so embarrassing! (Which is crazy, because there's no one there to hear you; why it is more embarrassing than the actual preaching itself, I do not know.)
So I'm trying to figure out what it is about preaching from notes that makes it better. Frankly, if I didn't have that videotaped evidence from all those years ago, I wouldn't believe it. I still have a hard time thinking that my sermons from notes could possibly be better than the carefully crafted language of manuscripts.
|sermon notes I found in the sacristy yesterday
Here's the thing that still scares me when preaching from notes: what if I say something wrong? With a manuscript, I feel like I'm totally in control of what comes out of my mouth; with notes...well, it varies from service to service. And what if I get it wrong? What if I say something stupid?
Here, for example, is a section from the notes from the sermon I preached yesterday:
That's not a lot to fall back on!
It's still hard, even after all this time, for me to trust that the words are going to be there, and that they are going to be valid and life-giving and gospel words even though they're not all laid out ahead of time. Every time I preach from notes I realize again that preaching is an act of faith, no matter how much I prepare. Maybe the best thing about preaching from notes is how humbling it is.