Happy New Year, RevGals & Pals!

My new year began with a delightful two days of Christmas Vacation Bible School.  Our congregation is one of several churches that come together to offer VBS twice a year, and Christmas vacation is the winter session.  With two days of VBS, there is only the first day and the last day, and that’s it!

small__4971453788In New Orleans, Epiphany is the beginning of King Cake season which leads into the Carnival season, commonly called “Mardi Gras.”  There will be king cake this week at our church’s after-worship fellowship.  How will your congregation celebrate Epiphany?  Or will you go with another worship emphasis?

RevGal Marci Glass has started a Star Word tradition in her congregation.  If you are looking for an idea that can be used a lot of different ways, check it out.

Whether you are gazing at stars or Kings or Christmas 2 or the Narrative Lectionary, you will find company here as you do sermon prep, attend to worship details or just give it all a second look. Looking for sermon readers? We can do that, too.

The coffee is always hot and Fair Trade.  Let’s share snacks, stories, illustrations and prayer requests.  I’d love to meet some new friends in this new year, so if you are typically a lurker, you are most cordially invited to let us know you are here.

Make yourself at home. If you don’t see what you need, just ask.

WELCOME, one and all!  Let the party begin!

[photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc]

84 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Star Gazers

  1. Not sleeping so I guess I will be first . My star word had a huge impact this last year so I will be extending the practice to this new congregation. Stars are ready… whole lot of sissoring! I happen to have a fabulous star shaped box that I need to find a way to use.
    Will see how this goes over. Congregation is starting New Beginnings discernment process this week
    so I hope to tie in being open to following where God leads. Also have a congregational meeting to vote on new officers… only half the positions have been accepted- still figuring out what this means here. Also vote on my terms of call which should be a non-issue but is still a bit triggering .
    I am ready for a break !

    Like

  2. looking at Matthew 2: 1-23
    lots of fragments this week, so I am going with 4 mini-reflections. the first is on light, and will involve a torch – what do we choose to see, shine light on. the second some background on the Magi, the third on Herod and security. and the fourth is on Bethlehem today, and barriers we create, not only between people, but between ourselves and God, which will lead into communion.
    We will sing A Voice is heard in Ramah, by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.

    I am thinking of including star words in February. Christmas is summer holidays here, school goes back after the Australia Day holiday at the end of January, so numbers are down, and the year doesn’t really get going until February.

    Next week I am a chaplain at a Youth and young adult camp from Tuesday to Friday. Over 1,000 people including adult volunteers and ‘campers’.
    9.00pm, time to write these mini-reflections, and find the photos my husband took of Bethlehem when he was in the Holy land February 2013.

    Like

  3. I am doing star words, focus on light, celebrating communion (a relatively new, New Year tradition here) and using the very familiar Isaiah and Matthew passages… Must write note to self to change this out next year!
    It’s all finished, will post to the blog and attach link shortly. Organised early as my goddaughter has just arrived and were planning some time together today.

    Like

      1. Thank you, Julie, for sharing your wonderful sermon and also showing me where I may give mine a haircut. You are right, they already know what happens when the magi see the child, so I can leave that out.

        Like

  4. after 11 pm, I think I am done. not sure i say anything particularly brilliant, but am giving some input to encourage people to think about what this story means for them. not putting it on my blog, as it is a series of dot points and PPT images.

    all the best for those starting their Saturday.

    Like

  5. Love the title, as my sermon was entitled Star Gazing and I was going to hand out stars, and talk about wisdom (magi) and contemplation ( the desert fathers and mothers and the request of those who visited them to “give me a word.” ) But alas, my broken ankle means I will not be back in the pulpit until ….who knows? I am going to give those stars out one way or another, though, eventually! I am highly motivated to heal, as my own weeklong contemplative retreat has been scheduled for the first week of February since last summer and I need to be able at least to walk in a boot to do that. My recommendation? Stay inside, write sermons, and guard your bones from the snow and ice!

    Like

    1. Oh, Robin, I was wondering how you were doing today with all of that. What rotten timing in so many ways, as if there is ever a good time for a broken ankle.

      Praying right now for your healing and for safety for all who are inundated with ice, snow and wind chill. Take care, everyone!

      Like

    2. Robin, I am so sorry about your new gimpy state. Prayers ascend. Try to take this time to enjoy God’s epiphany. T’ain’t fun but when such times are forced upon you, take them as gift.

      Like

  6. Good morning! All through the season I used a star theme, so I am going with the Ephesians passage and the “fulness of time” theme with a nod to Epiphany, since WE are singing We Three Kings (in my congregation, the music minister chooses music. I could have asked to change it, but hey, we haven’t sung it yet this season.) I have some sun-dried tomato, veggie sausage, mushroom, mozzarella frittata to share if any one would like a piece with some bananas and blueberries on the side? Robin, sorry to hear about your broken ankle. My dear colleague here broke her ankle right before Christmas, this week is her first back in the pulpit, but she isn’t weight bearing yet. Prayers for your healing!

    Like

    1. Good morning, Karla! I’m setting aside my green smoothie and going for some of that delicious frittata and fruit. Yum!

      I love Ephesians, and I would love to be in your congregation to hear your sermon.

      Like

  7. My sermon is done. I am subbing in a rather dispirited parish whose pastor has just left. But a new family (3 generations) have come and 3 of the children are going to receive their first communion. So there is a bit of hope. I decided to focus on the journey of the Magi. This bunch has a long journey ahead. I will be posting it shortly at http://www.stoneofwitness.blogspot.com.

    Like

  8. Good morning, everyone! I am just now getting up and going. I am in the Central Time Zone, so I was actually up before 8:00. Still, it was a late rising for me. Apparently a two-day VBS can still pack a punch!

    My sermon has a title: “Arise, Shine!” and a vague idea that it will highlight some ways that they as a congregation do actually shine. Also, I might highlight what’s possible for them this year, which is likely the year — let’s hope and pray! — that they will call a settled pastor. What star are they following? Whom do they seek? These are little ideas that might come together at some point.

    I made a batch of healthy smoothies this morning. It’s green so it’s got to be good for you, right? (Ingredients available upon request.) Help yourselves in between coffee refills!

    Like

  9. We are going with Epiphany and the familiar Isaiah/Matthew readings, evhe en though we are doing the NL this year. Next year I will plan ahead and work to make the reading for the Sunday nearest Epiphany relate to the Epiphany story. But not this year. I think my sermon will focus on journey and wisdom and/or God acting to do a new thing in us/through us. I really don’t have a direction yet (can you tell?). There is a decent chance that we will cancel worship service tomorrow for the first time since I have been here (almost 4 years) and maybe a few before that. There is supposed to be a snow storm followed by extreme, bitter cold. While I dread the below zero temp for the high (or for the low, like last night), the snow doesn’t bother me. I am prepared for a longer winter break for my sons and giving thanks for the Xbox 360 and games I bought them for Christmas. Between that and a new to us couch/loveseat and the movies we still haven’t watched, I am set for heaping on the dogs, blankets and boys and having a grand time. Is it wrong that I really hope we cancel services? It is killing my motivation to write a sermon. I discovered that I am superstitious enough to believe that I better write a sermon now so that the odds of staying the course with the worship service go down.

    Off to make breakfast burritos now that older son is up too. Anyone want one? They are vegetarian but not vegan.

    Like

    1. There is nothing wrong with longing for a real Sabbath, and that is what you get when worship services are cancelled. When I lived in snow country, I was also superstitious enough to prepare for the worship service even when it was highly likely it would be cancelled.

      I want to come to your house for burritos and snow day fun!

      Like

  10. Is it Saturday already? As much as I love vacation I hate all the catch up. I am having a hard time being pastoral with some of the questions and requests I received from a committee I moderate for our presbytery. For you PCUSA people you are familiar with COM! Yep, that committee.

    I’m NL and focusing on the words “Come and See” from John 1: 35-51. I also included the reading of the magi from Matthew. They came. They saw. They went home by another away. Seems John is saying much the same thing. All John’s Jesus does in invite. That is so me…I invite people to consider something new, to let something go, to ask those hard questions, to open their heart just a little bit more. The church I serve has a strong history of using guilt and shame when asking people to serve as officers or with a project. So detrimental.

    Like

  11. I am also going with the NL and focusing on the ‘come and see’ As I worked with the passage, all the repetitive verbs intrigued me – come, see, found, remain. And all the ways Jesus is described. I don’t know where I’m going with all this yet. I think I’ll noodle the story for a while and see what shakes loose.

    This cold weather is freaking out even my die hard South Dakota congregation. My youth group leaders are already thinking about cancelling Wednesday’s meeting and my quilting ladies aren’t sure they will come out if it’s still so cold. Nothing has been said about cancelling church as of yet – maybe I’ll give my council presidents a call later on and see what they think. We didn’t get the snow, so the roads are good – it’s just going to be brutally cold.

    Like

    1. Ramona, when it’s too cold for South Dakota, that’s really cold! Finding that line between “let’s go for it” and “time to stay home” is really tricky, isn’t it? And it seems to never be a unanimous decision.

      Noodle on!

      Like

  12. I’m not preaching this week – having a break, even though I’m at BE in just a couple of weeks. Indeed I’ll barely be in the pulpit January/February due to a variety of other commitments! I’ll give out star words next week and encourage folk to reflect on the words they received last year. Just another reminder that the season – and the Incarnation goes on. I’ve been reflecting on that: http://www.liz-vicarofdibley.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/12-days-and-more.html.
    Unfortunately I still have loads of unhealthy snacks here – Christmas cake, shortbread, trifle, chocolates…please come and help me use them up!

    Like

  13. I’m just joining the party. I chose the uninspired, “Follow the Star” as my sermon title. I pulled together a liturgy around the blessing of homes for the new year. We’ll bless our house of worship and model how they can bless their own homes. My stars are cut out and ready, but there is a 50/50 chance of us canceling worship here as well. Already 47 schools have posted closings for Monday. It’ll be warmer on Sunday than Monday, but I think the tendency will be to hunker down and stay home. I’m tending to an adult daughter who had surgery on Thursday and is healing at our home for a couple of weeks. I’m feeling weary for a whole variety of reasons. Time to sermonate with intention.

    Like

    1. I like that – teaching people how to bless their home. I’ve had a couple of requests for home blessings. I may try to figure out a day that works for us in worship as well.

      Like

      1. Maybe blessing of homes in conjunction with next week’s NL text on the wedding at Cana. I think I can connect wedding and homes and God’s desire for our abundant life. Hmmm. food for thought for next week.

        Like

  14. Hello everyone! I had a belly dance class this morning (to make up for one that wasn’t held on New Year’s Eve) and now I’m back to my sermon. Preaching the Ephesians and Matthew epiphany texts. Focusing on the idea that epiphany isn’t just getting new information, but it is transformative information–life was different for both wisemen and Paul after their epiphanies.
    How are we to be transformed?
    That’s the theory at least. Back to work for me!

    Like

      1. Thanks! I inherited the idea from someone who had gotten it from someone else. If you would like to link to my STARward blog post, that is great. But other than that, just pass it on.

        Like

  15. Hello – I am drawn in by Howard Thurman’s:poem – the work of Christmas and reflecting on John 1

    “When the song of the angels is stilled,

    When the star in the sky is gone,
    When the kings and princes are home,
    When the shepherds are back with their flock,
    The work of Christmas begins:
    To find the lost,
    To heal the broken,
    To feed the hungry,
    To release the prisoner,
    To rebuild the nations,
    To bring peace among people,
    To make music in the heart.”

    working on how we carry Christmas with us as we leave the last day (tomorrow is day 12) and move into a new year – and do the work of Christmas

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing that poem…. I saw it once, ages ago, and was really hoping to find it again… 7.30am Sunday is pretty 11th hour – perfect timing really!

      Like

  16. Hey everyone! Trying to get a good go on this this afternoon while husband and boy are both sleeping…A question for Marci: If I were to incorporate your Star tradition in my service, how would you like it to be referenced? I want to give credit where credit is due!

    Like

  17. Church is on for tomorrow, SS is not.

    I have a short sermon which may be ok since we have communion tomorrow. I decided to tell the story of John 1 from the view point of the ‘other disciple’ with Andrew. I had been thinking about periodic monologues from the other (beloved?) disciple as we go through John and today seemed a good day to introduce her. It’s an ok sermon, but I’m not sure I got what I wanted to say said. Trouble is, I can’t quite pinpoint what this passage is saying to me. I just know it moves me deeply. Something like: Come and see, Follow and abide. Discover who Jesus is.

    My rough draft is posted here. I’ll keep fiddling with it.

    Like

  18. Sermon is done, well at least words on a document. We have installation of officers tomorrow so sermon is shorter for that reason. I’ve never been a twenty minute preacher…this one is about ten. I’ll post later after taking a breather and re-reading it.

    Like

  19. I just returned from vacation this morning, and am trying to find an opening for the Come And See sermon. I want to talk about how the spirit in which we look influences what we see…and Jesus says we will see “greater things than these.” That’ll lead into an adaptation of star words–we are doing eye-words. 🙂 all part of a slow and steady radical plan toward a sense of god’s vision for this congregation along with a new look at what has been and what could be.

    Getting there, though, is another thing. Not to mention that I just found out we’ve been upgraded to a winter storm warning that includes up to ten inches of snow and crazy winds all before church tomorrow. I drive farther than anyone else, so I don’t want to be the wuss about it, plus it’s a communion Sunday, so secretary and I just agreed to hold out a bit and see what develops this evening before calling the elders. Which means I could really use some sermon mojo right about now!!

    I don’t have any real food in my house, but I do have cocoa and peppermint bark, so help yourselves to an afternoon treat. 🙂

    Like

    1. Teri, how challenging to be just back from vacation and dealing with the weather uncertainty. Well, it’s certain to be difficult, just not clear how difficult.

      “Eye words” — nice adaptation for your context. “A new look” is a courageous move for all of you. Nice work!

      Like

  20. I’m a last-minute writer, although I’ve been chewing on tomorrow’s readings (Matt. 2:1-12, the Ephesians passage, Jer. 31:7-14). We have a “healing for new beginnings” emphasis this Sunday, with anointing and healing prayers during the service. I’m still in the “noticing all the shimmery things” stage and aware that it will soon be time to figure out what to pick up and hold, what to walk past, and how to order what is left.

    What’s shimmering? Difference, the Other, encounter, pilgrimage and change. There’s a Wendell Berry poem (“We travelers walking to the sun….”) that I love but won’t probably be able to use tomorrow. Because I’ve written a bunch here already, I’ll just include the link. Hope that works….

    http://alsturgeon.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/a-favorite-poem-of-mine-by-wendell-berry/

    Like

      1. Thanks, Sharon. I’m a seminarian (one semester down!) who gets to preach about once a quarter. I don’t have much to do with the liturgy planning or anything, although I will get to participate in the anointing tomorrow.

        Like

        1. Charlotte, new seminarian time is such a poignant and rich season of ministry. Tomorrow’s anointing will be something you will always remember. And so will your congregation. I hope we get to hear about it.

          Like

  21. The congregation with the later service just cancelled. Which makes sense because the temps will actually be colder at the later service, there are more people who walk, and more that come from far out in the country. I posted the link to the sermon on the prayer chain.

    The congregation with the earlier service has elected to still have church. In a way it’s nice. I’ll be able to spend a bit more time after church with them. Unless of course, they decide in the morning to cancel too.

    Like

    1. That’s fascinating, Terri! I’ve never heard of the Stonehenge-like structure in New Hampshire. Very interesting. And I like your introduction to the Starwords. I’ll be doing something similar tomorrow, and it will also be a first for us. But I’m still writing…..

      Like

  22. Hey preachers! Joining the party late b/c I’ve had busy day. I spent most of the day being trained to use “Prepare/Enrich” for marriage prep–which I really loved. I have always felt unprepared for this particular task, and this seems like a great tool.

    Knowing that I’d be busy today, I wrote my sermon yesterday–helped along by the fact that it was TOO COLD to do anything else. I’m about to reread it now and see if it is actually preachable….I started out in one direction, but it sort of veered off onto another path, which happens to me sometimes. About the Magi’s willingness to take an uncharted path and find an unexpected kind of king and could they be models for us as we try to be church in the 21st century–on an uncharted path…to my somewhat floundering and highly change resistant congregation.

    If I really hate it when I reread it, I have a sustainable sermon from six years ago that I actually like quite a bit, but the ending doesn’t work in my present context…but at least it is something to fall back on.

    Stay warm everyone. Grateful that it got above zero today!

    Like

    1. Kris, way to prepare ahead of time. You rock!

      What is this “floundering and highly change resistant congregation” of which you speak? I’m pretty sure her name is Legion. TBTG, these texts are great for showing a “way” along the uncharted path to the Holy Other.

      I have always used P/E in my ministry and I have found it to be an amazing tool. I hope you do, too.

      Like

      1. Sharon, you speak the truth!

        And the good news is that the sermon is preachable. And edited and pdf’d and sent to dropbox. TBTG!

        And I love your idea of Christmas VBS, btw.

        Like

  23. I’m only just sitting down to write (gasp) having only just returned from vacation last night. Full service tomorrow with welcoming some new members and communion. I’m on NL and am struck by the questions (where are you staying? can anything good come out of Nazareth) whose answers are both: come and see. Hopeful that inspiration will come sooner rather than later!

    We’ve been doing star gifts in our church the last 4 years, but I’m saving it for next week. I first heard of it via this article, for those looking for a reference: http://reformedworship.org/article/september-2009/star-gifts

    Like

  24. I am looking for examples of times God has been revealed (in a person or an event) and folks have had to choose between treating that revelation as a gift or as a blessing. Yeah there are likely a few of those whenever God attempts to transform the world….

    Like

  25. ok, so I took a nap with the kitties, made dinner (come on over and have some enchi-la-la-la risotto!), and listened to the working preacher podcasts. Still not sure of a way in, but seriously considering starting by talking about how our eyes work (the corneas bend light reflections so they’ll go through our pupils, and the lens bends light again to ensure it hits our optic nerve…but sometimes those light-bending surfaces don’t work or get covered up, and then what?), and then move to the difference between that kind of seeing and the kind of seeing that Jesus invites us to–an epiphany, an insight, not dependent on our head’s little 1″ spheres but on grace illuminating and bending until we can see greater things than these.

    Somehow that’ll lead to the eye-words.

    And also to communion…maybe something about the feast of the table giving us a practice glimpse so we can see glory in the ordinary in other places too?

    Right? that would probably work? I wish I had more time to work with. Silly communion sundays. 😉

    Like

    1. Ooh, I like the feast at the table as practice seeing glory in the ordinary. It feels like something tangible that could echo through minds and hearts as they eat with others going forward, too.

      Like

        1. This risotto is seriously good. And I think it’s gluten free in addition to being vegetarian! 🙂

          Okay, I have to put some of those words in the actual sermon document. It’s almost 9pm and if I’m going to church tomorrow, I’m going to have to leave at 7 to be sure I can get there through the snow. Must write fast! Come, Holy Spirit….

          Like

  26. Ugh. I’m a process person, so I usually don’t mind writing five sermon starts before I finally find the one that works, but today I’m just not in the mood. My kids have been gone all week skiing with their dad (this is our first Christmas/New Year’s since he moved out) and I’m lonely and bored and really pretty sick of my own company.

    Think I’ll go eat pea soup and maybe come back revived.

    Actually, I imagine some of the magi’s wandering days were like this….

    Like

    1. Maybe you are onto something, Charlotte, about the gift of wandering. If you have it all planned out from beginning to end, surprises might be unlikely &/or unwelcome. (Just a couple of random thoughts . . . )

      From my own experience, the first year is hard, especially holidays. Be gentle with yourself.

      Like

      1. Thanks, Sharon. I just texted with my daughter and am feeling more hopeful again. And yes, a little wandering leaves room for Spirit.

        Like

  27. I’m losing steam over here. I’m still in full hibernation mode and when it gets dark, I get tired. That was a few hours ago. I have a sermon and I’m pretty sure it’s preachable. It needs another look in the early a.m.

    Thank you for partying today. It was a joy to read your sermons and to hear all the wonderful worship plans that you creative ones put together. How blessed are your congregations!

    Praying God will bless and keep each of you tomorrow, whether you have a snow day or are keeping the usual schedule. Please do check in on the Facebook RevGal Group and let us know how it went.

    Feel free to party on. I’ll be back in the morning to see who’s here.

    Like

  28. I’m getting here late, but I’ve had the scriptures meandering through my mind all week long. I’m preaching on following those things which call to us: stars, dreams, pro/con lists, gut feelings – however it is we know that this is the way to take, the way in which God leads us. Then I’m hoping to find a way to explore what that might mean for us as part of the body of Christ. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll find when I get to the ending, but I’m hoping the Spirit will work through me. It’s been an extremely emotional day fraught with health concerns (as the past month or so has been), and I just don’t have much to give to the pastoral charge tomorrow.

    Like

    1. prayers for you as you lead worship.
      I can remember being told by a mentor to offer the best I had, which some weeks may not seem much at all, God honours our attempts.
      years before I went to theological college, i noticed something on a friends fridge, she told me it was from a sermon I preached – I am sure I had never seen or spoken those words.sometimes the Spirit gives people what they need. praying you get what you need.

      Like

  29. Getting a really late start–flights from the west coast delayed because flights from the east coast were delayed. Just finished dinner after returning home from the memorial service for my aunt. I know it’s the Slaughter of the Innocents for me tomorrow. There are so many innocents slaughtered every day in the community in which I serve. Short night. Early morning.

    Like

  30. I have been using the star words for the past several years at the different churches I have served. This year, I’m still at the same church and they were excited about getting a new word this year. It is interesting to hear the stories of the word unfolding during the year. It’s a great Epiphany gift.

    Like

We hope you'll join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.