For most of my ministry I never preached the same message more than once. I’ve almost been manic about always doing the study fresh each week. I research the text prodding the Scripture for clear understanding and searching for Biblical ways to apply God’s Word to the needs of today’s culture. I used to preach 3 times a week as an average. After 30 years that’s quite a pile of sermons!
How unusual it has been these past two years preaching messages I wrote 5, 10 or even 25 years ago. But I find it’s never the same sermon. It almost takes more work to recycle a message than construct a new message.
When I take a look at the message written in 1989 about stewardship or prayer, there is a sense of the “raised eyebrow”. Did I REALLY think that? I find that re-reading passages of Scripture, and the way I interpreted them 25 years ago is different than what the Word is saying to me now. As a result I find myself challenging every word I wrote back then with what I have seen God do in my life and ministry.
“Recycling” a sermon is similar to what happens to a soda can thrown in the recycle bin. There is the basic metal, some used paint and a little water and sugar left on the inside of the can. The people at the recycling plant put the can in the fire. The paint and sugar burn away and the metals are re-formed, re-useable!
In the same way, God recycles my approach to His Word. God uses the time in-between when a sermon was first written and preached to update my thinking, ripen my theology. God’s word never changes, but it does change us. I’ve seen this in using previous messages, because my approach to preaching has always been to understand the text first, and then ask questions of what the text means to this human being, me, a travelling pilgrim in an alien world. The sermons I have preached are always constructed on the answers to those questions – how God’s Word impacts a human soul. And when the message is from God’s Word, delivered to a heart ready to worship….well that never gets outdated.
“Recycling” sermons has been a real joy for me; I’m seeing God’s tracks in the path of my life.
Has God been recycling anything in your life? Are you seeing His tracks on your path?
Same family problems re-visited?
Same financial crunch this month as last?
Loneliness creeping up on you?
Work, sleep, eat, and repeat the cycle becoming boring?
That’s the stuff of doing your best to present yourself to God as a worker who knows and does the truth of His Word.