The subtitle of Frank G. Honeycutt’s new book is “Daily Habits for the Busy Preacher.” The book is called Sunday Comes Every Week.
Honeycutt takes us through the pastor’s week as the pastor both pastors people and prepares for Sunday’s sermon. Monday is for listening, and Tuesday is for Hearing.
Today is Tuesday. Today, he observes, is for hearing.
Pastors often sigh; so did Jesus (Mark 7:34). Sighing is a form of prayer.
Sighs often reveal one’s emotional state faster and better than words. Something unspoken is brooding in us. If there were some sort of “sigh-ometer” that could count the number of times we exhale daily in this fashion, pastors of any age might be surprised.
Before moving on to crafting a sermon based upon your specific preaching text for the coming Sunday, consider also the prayer context into which you bring the various sighs that seem to be bubbling forth from the pastoral depths. Some advice: get outside the church building for regular prayer, and take your preaching text along with you.
Getting out of the church building with your preaching text for the coming Sunday clears away (at least temporarily!) the cobwebs from a multitude of meetings and offers fresh perspective through the creative realities of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed. … Taking sermon notes in a natural setting will lead a pastor, over time, to describe a God who is involved in a far larger project than the concerns of a particular congregation alone, though those concerns are certainly included.
Play with the text.
The first portable homiletical habit is what I like to call playing with the text.” Jewish Bible scholars who engage in the ancient interpretive art of “midrash” take great delight in examining these ancient stories from lots of odd (but faithful) angles—positing amusing questions, considering hypothetical outcomes, and wondering why a certain word was chosen over another.
Ponder truth told “slant.”
… it is also instructive to notice how Jesus regularly goes about springing the truth on his listeners—his rather cagey strategy of truth-telling. … Jesus’s teaching and preaching of difficult truths often have an elliptical feel, a dot-dot-dot tenor, because insight is rarely embraced all at once and right away by any of us. It creeps up on us gradually, in waves, over time. Lasting truth is told “slant” by wise communicators because listeners are usually just not ready to make the changes such truth demands all at once via the in-your-face style of that Chicago street preacher.
Explore tenor and tone.
A final Tuesday task involves making some decisions about how a text may have originally sounded to people who first heard it. This is especially important with texts that involve dialogue. Discerning vocal tenor in a story is a vital (but often overlooked) interpretive clue in developing a sermon theme. My advice: read the story aloud dozens of times throughout the week.
I agree with Honeycutt here on tone and tenor: reading the text aloud a few times can alter one’s perception of the text. Is it prophetic? is it pastoral? is it strong? is it tender?