Fortunately, I've picked up some moves that usually help; that's why most of my sermons follow this pattern:
Page 1: introduction
- Start with a one-sentence summary of the problem. (In this case, it's the fact that "We all hate it when nobody notices how good we've been.")
- Spend a half-page illustrating the problem, viz. Greg Mortenson setting up 200-chairs for a fund-raiser . . . and only three people show.
- Spend the next half-page noting the fact that scripture deals with this problem, and introduce the thesis that grows out of this scripture, i.e. "God is the only audience we need."
- Give some context for the scripture, and note how it states the problem, i.e. "some people try to get noticed by the wrong people."
- Read and explain the scripture's take on this problem.
- Make some application to our lives today.
- State the solution, i.e. "God sees what we do -- even if nobody else does!"
- Half-page illustration: God is like a parent who knows what His children are getting Him for Christmas; there are no secrets from Him!
- Take the next page to read and explain the relevant verses.
- Spend a half-page applying the solution to people who work without an audience -- people who may feel that "nobody knows and nobody cares" what they do.
- Point out that God knows and God cares what we do (even if nobody else does).
- Note that even an audience of one can be enough if it's the right one -- and illustrate this with Greg Mortenson's "failed" fund-raiser.
- Close by restating the thesis.
- If I finish a page early (i.e. before the hour is over), I take the rest of that time off as a reward.
- I always try to write a little beyond a natural stopping place -- when I've finished page one, for instance, I'll write the first sentence of page two before I take my break.
- If I come down with writer's block while typing my sermon, I switch to writing with a pen on a legal pad -- and vice versa.
- And I plan for the fact that the last page will probably take twice as long to write as a "normal" page. (I don't know why -- it just does!)
Tomorrow: delivering the sermon.