This week the text is Luke 13:10-17:
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?" When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
This text comes around every three years; hundreds of thousands of sermons have been written about it. I have spent time reading the text, taking it apart, reading it in different translations, looking for a preaching "handle", doing word studies of the Greek. I try to understand the text before I crack open any commentaries, steeping myself into the text and seeing where it might connect to myself and my congregation. Only after I've done that do I open up any commentaries (that is, if I open up ANY commentaries.)
Then I look to see where the themes intersect today's society. This week I came up with a tagline that I want to use as the title of the sermon: "Bent Out of Shape." The woman is bent out of her shape physically and the powers that be are bent out of shape that Jesus healed on the sabbath. I thought it was a brilliant title. Then I googled the phrase and the word "sermon." Well, there must be a couple of dozen sermons on this text with that title.
I thought I was bringing something fresh and new to the text, but no. Then I realized that my three points: Bent Over, Bent Out of Shape and Bent to Our Own Purpose (how we twist the Law to suit ourselves) are the SAME three points several others have used (if not in those words.)
Is it conceit that I believe I can bring something fresh and new? I suppose it's horribly arrogant to think that for the first time in two thousand years *I* would have this brilliant flash of insight and bring something new into the world.
May the Lord save me from conceit and arrogance. Lord, have mercy.
Sidebar: I suppose what I am afraid of now is being accused of plagiarism. With many of the discussions on facebook, blogs and in the magazines about plagiarism, I guess I'm just scared. I use the Psalm of the week for my call to worship; I use phrases from the texts in my pastoral prayer. I suppose all I can do is just be true to my method and if I come up with a "common" title or structure, I just can't worry about it.