The reason I ask is that in John Grisham's new novel The Confession, one of the main characters is the Reverend Keith Schroeder, a Lutheran Pastor in smalltown Kansas. His sermon prep (as imagined by Grisham) goes as follows:
In a normal week, Reverend Schroeder would spend most of Tuesday afternoon locked in his office with the phones on hold as he searched for his next sermon's topic. He looked at current events, thought about the needs of his flock, prayed a lot, and, if nothing happened, would go to the files and look at old sermons. When the idea finally hit, he would write a quick outline and then begin the full text. At that point, the pressure was off, and he could practice and rehearse until Sunday. Few things felt worse, though, than waking up on Wednesday morning with no idea what he would say on Sunday. (p. 112)
Given the way Mr Schroeder is portrayed in the rest of the book, it's no surprise that his sermon prep doesn't seem to take very long, and doesn't seem to mention the Bible! You wonder, though, if this is how the members of our congregations and those outside think we put together our Sunday sermons. Just sit down for a wee while and something will come together.
At least Schroeder prays, but that's maybe all that can be said for him! In practice, the work of preparing a sermon is a week-long activity, starting on Monday for the next Sunday, spending time prayerfully and carefully reading the text, studying the words, considering what is being said (and what isn't said) in the way it is said. It simply can't be done in a hurry, rather it takes time to marinate, to soak in the text, thinking about what God is saying to this particular congregation; thinking about illustrations and applications, before finally getting round to writing the sermon (and hoping you're getting it right first time!).
I've found that it's good to work through sermon series, taking a Bible book in sequence, so that you don't have to take up part of the week trying to decide what to preach on. Simply finding the passage can take up time that needs to be used on the actual passage.
Preacher, how do you organise your time and prepare your sermons?