I always leave my sermon notes on the pulpit when the service closes. Later in the week I'll collect, cover, and store them in a 3-ring binder, but I try not to think through the message more than a simple thumbs up/thumbs down assessment. Preaching books tell me this is poor practice; leadership books encourage more reflection.
But I view my closing prayer as a farewell to the message.
Until a few weeks ago, this habit made me feel hypocritical. I would stand before my church, present truth and encourage application. Some applications were specific (meditate on God's holiness this week; ban McDonalds for a month), others were vague (live fearlessly!). Regardless, as I intoned every exhortation, I knew that I was not going to make a deliberate effort to model it myself.
This sounds horrible, I know, but it was my mode of operation. Every sermon was a eulogy.
Fortunately, God exposed something to me recently. A friend in the church asked when I started preparing the message for the upcoming week. "Sunday at noon," I replied. As soon as I locked the church doors and set the alarm, my mind was already racing to the next passage of Scripture. Meditating on it. Visualizing it. Dancing in its shoes. Then for the next six days and twenty-three hours, I allowed the text to form me as I tried to reduce it to a half-page, half-hour snapshot of God.
Leaving a sermon on the pulpit was not hypocricy, it was leadership. For six days and twenty-three hours I played in its pages, only to pass it along for others to participate. I only leave what I have first lived.