Note: Pastor Tim will be away on his Renewal Leave from June 6 through September 19, 2022.
I have a document folder on my computer entitled “Tim’s Filing Cabinet.” This folder is special and accessible pretty much anytime from any computer or even on my phone. It contains notes or a full manuscript for every sermon that I have ever preached since 2003. It includes all of the sermons I preached when I began seminary and began working and preaching at David Lutheran Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio, my Ministry-In-Context congregation. It includes all of the sermons that I preached during my year of internship at Christ Lutheran Church in Dallas, Texas. It includes all of the sermons that I preached while working as the Senior Seminarian at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Pickerington, Ohio. It includes all of the sermons I preached while serving as Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And it includes all of the sermons I have preached in my time at Christ the King, too.
I say this because – when I counted the number of documents in that folder today – I realized something astonishing: I have written and preached 951 sermons!
My mind can barely conceive of that number, but between regular Sunday services, funerals, weddings, midweek services and other special services I’ve been a part of, Advent & Lenten midweek services that I led for many years in other congregations, it’s true! 951! Sheesh!
When I answered the call to Word & Sacrament ministry – that is, when I started this path to becoming a pastor – I knew some of the stuff that such a call would entail: pastoral care visits, meetings, lunches and other gatherings with prospective members, leading worship, teaching, being involved with administration and equipping leaders. But the amount of writing that I have done in my time as pastor has been astounding! It’s not just sermons, but also newsletter articles, Bible study presentations, annual reports, Council reports, references, strategic planning and visioning documents, liturgy materials – indeed, writing is a major part of my work life.
Thankfully, I really enjoy it. I have found that I process and distill my thoughts best in the written word. (This, incidentally, is why I continue to preach using a full manuscript, rather than just notes or no script at all. If I don’t write it down, I find it incredibly difficult to say what I really want to say.) If nothing else, it also gives me a way to remember what I said about this or that topic or Scripture reading x number of years ago!
Over the years, many people have asked if I have ever considered writing something to be published. I’m flattered by the question, but, honestly, no; I think my writing is far too occasional and intended for a very particular audience rather than a broad word for the masses. In my mind, that doesn’t make for a very interesting read for people beyond my scope.
Still, I can’t deny that writing is and will continue to be an important part of my life. This will especially be the case even during my upcoming Renewal Leave. I do intend on doing quite a bit of writing during this time as a way for me to process the things that will inevitably arise as I spend those fifteen weeks tending to the roots of my family and my faith. What will come of that writing? I don’t know. Perhaps nothing. Perhaps something. But the focus for me is more about the process rather than the end result.
One thing I know for sure: the things that I learn over my renewal leave will be written down, and they will certainly find their way into future sermons as I march ever steadily toward Sermon #1000!