Today has been an on-and-off productive day for me. I'm going in spurts. On my plate for today is continuing to work on my sermon for Sunday and continuing to write my approval essay (a four-part beast of an essay to be written in these last stages before ordination that exhibits my preaching ability, my capacity for theological reflection, my integration of theological theory and practice, and my self-understanding as a person in ministry).
The sermon is an interesting challenge for me. I've been encouraged to preach without notes at some point during this internship year, and I've decided that this is going to be the Sunday. This, it turns out, completely messes up my process. I don't want to simply write a sermon and memorize it. Nor do I want to stand up and babble. I'm undecided, therefore, about exactly what to write up as I work on it. Do I write out a sermon manuscript and then focus on remembering the key movements to it (as opposed to memorizing it word-for-word)? Or do I make a general outline of key ideas and ponder them at length, and then preach extemporaneously on Sunday? I started this process by writing a number of pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the texts, and have come to realize that not only do these texts lend themselves to at least 10 different potential sermons, but also that the texts speak quite directly to some of the current issues and conflicts in the congregation. This means that my sermon is likely to be frank and challenging to the congregation...meaning that it's quite challenging to me as well. How do I best speak honestly to the congregation's situation without coming across as harsh? How do I speak hard truths without being judgmental? How do I speak about controversial things in a non-anxious way? How do I assure the congregation that the sermon will take us to difficult places, but that there is indeed good news? How do I promise them that it's worth sticking with me? It makes "writing" an extemporaneous sermon difficult when you have to choose your words carefully. My only comfort right now is that if the words come out wrong, they congregation may just chalk it up to "she didn't have notes" instead of "she's being controversial." And if the delivery suffers, hopefully they will think "it's because she's talking about hard stuff" instead of "wow, that was a flop."
On the approval essay side of things...I'm analyzing and explaining a sermon I preached a few weeks back, and trying to get into a mindset to best talk about the themes of death resurrection that are addressed in the sections of the essay. I'm trying to gauge how much self-generated content they want and how much outside research they want. All of the questions could be easily answered without any need for outside reference, except that they want me to include some of that. So the challenge will be to figure out how much outside material to use, and how to use it in an appropriate, organic, helpful way.
I'm fooling myself into believing I'm being productive because I have both of the aforementioned documents open on my computer. I stare at them and they stare at me. And somehow that makes me feel like I'm working on them, even if all I can figure out to do is reread what's already there. Meanwhile, one of the women in the office made an incredible pot of coffee, so I'm enjoying that, and thinking about the birthday potluck we're having at lunchtime for another staff member, and looking outside at the blue sky, and listening to music that I've been meaning to get more familiar with, and contemplating how I can both preach and play flute with the jazzy worship combo on Sunday, and wondering if I'm going to have my supervisory meeting today since we had a long conversation yesterday about most of the things we would've covered today. My mind is all over the place, hence my being productive only in spurts.
But at least I have Microsoft Word open. At least I can pretend I'm getting a lot done.