Gilead is a novel about Reverend John Ames, second generation pastor, who writes to his son near the end of his life in 1956.
Ames keeps his in a box in the attic. One day he figures out that he’s filled 67,600 pages with his sermons, the equivalent of 225 books. Here are some of his thoughts on his sermons, spread over some 50 pages of the novel:
I think every day about going through those old sermons of mine to see if there are one or two I might want you to read sometime, but there are so many, and I’m afraid, first of all, that most of them might seem foolish or dull to me.
There is not a word in any of those sermons I didn’t mean when I wrote it. If I had the time, I could read my way through fifty years of my innermost life. What a terrible thought.
I had a dream once that I was preaching to Jesus Himself, saying any foolish thing I could think of, and He was sitting there in His white, white robe looking patient and sad and amazed. That’s what it felt like.
Well, perhaps I can get a box of them down here somehow and do a little sorting. It would put my mind at ease to feel I was leaving a better impression. So often I have known, right here in the pulpit, even as I read these words, how far they fell short of any hopes I had for them. And they were the major work of my life, from a certain point of view. I have to wonder how I have lived with that.
Sermons are, according to Ames, “one side of a passionate conversation.” Very true. And I suspect that most preachers can relate to at least some of what Ames says about his sermons.