This week I received an email about getting ready for Lent, which marks the six weeks before Easter. It’s an early reminder since Easter Sunday isn’t until April 21 and Lent doesn’t begin until March 6 this year. But while Lent and Easter 2019 are still ahead of us, I’m already preparing for Lent and Easter 2020. Talk about working ahead!
The reason I’m such an early bird is all due to my current writing project: a book of sermons for Lent and Easter 2020 for CSS Publishing. I’ve worked with CSS on two earlier books: Led by the Spirit and Ordinary Time With Jesus, both collections of sermons, and both based on the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a cycle of Scripture readings used by many churches in Canada and the United States. My current project is again a collection of sermons, and again lectionary based, this time on the gospel readings for Lent and Easter 2020.
Although that’s more than a year from now, my writing deadline is the end of February, so I’m definitely in the thick of writing. “But are you really writing?” some might wonder. “Aren’t you just taking sermons you’ve already preached, and putting them into a book?”
Well, yes and no.
On the yes side, CSS has a reputation for publishing preaching and worship resources that have been tested in ministry, so previously preached sermons are definitely in order. For my designated Scripture texts, I’ve preached on most of them before–some several times–so these sermons “have passed the rigorous test of being used in the field” as CSS Publishing puts it.
But no, that’s not all there is to it. A spoken sermon still needs to be turned into a written one suitable for publication. Plus, I haven’t yet preached on every text that’s designated for Lent and Easter 2020. Or if I’ve preached on a certain text, it may have been for an entirely different time of year, or so specific to my particular church context that it wouldn’t make sense for other pastors and churches. What’s more, a book of sermons needs a title and a theme to tie the sermons together. For me that means re-working each sermon in light of the theme and title, so that each sermon contributes to the whole.
At this point, my working title and theme for the book is On the Road With Jesus. In it, we follow Jesus on the road to the cross and beyond–as he meets a woman at the well when he travels through Samaria (John 4:5-42); as he meets a man beside the road and cures his blindness (John 9:1-41); as after his resurrection, he meets two of his followers on the road outside of Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35). The title also refers to our own road through life that may include times of temptation and wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), experiences of betrayal and suffering (Matthew 26:14ff.), and times of peace (John 20:19-23)–not exactly as experienced by Jesus and his first followers, but in ways that these texts speak into our lives today. As people of faith, we can be on the road with Jesus in all of life.
The title may change in the editing process, but for now On the Road With Jesus helps to focus my writing. It also pairs well with my earlier Ordinary Time With Jesus, so the two could form a set for preaching, small groups, or personal use. It’s too early for cover art for my new book, but I look forward to sharing the cover with you as soon as I’m able.
For now, it’s back to my draft manuscript, especially since I’m somewhat behind where I’d like to be at this point. But at least I’m on the road with Jesus.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What does it mean for you to be on the road with Jesus? Are you hiking uphill? Coasting down? Is your road well travelled or rather lonely?
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