Sunset

Winter has come early to the Northern Hemisphere, and not particularly welcome. Some of us are just dealing with cold temperatures while others have already had significant snow fall. It’s unpleasant, but it is what this time of year brings, early or not.

The texts this week bring us much to consider, cold weather not with standing. We have Deborah, the amazing queen who saves her people contrasted with Jesus’ parable in Matthew of the (so called) “talents.”

Or if you are working with the Narrative Lectionary you may be considering kings and judges (rulers, again) and Isaiah’s prophetic call to the people, “what is God’s desire for you?”

A number of us are in the middle of or the end of our Stewardship season, which only further challenges how one might “read” these texts and what one might need to say to the people.

Where are your thoughts this day, as you ponder the texts? Which text calls to you and moves you to reflect on it?

This is the preacher party, a day to shore up one another, offer ideas, or at least compassionate listening.

I have plenty of coffee, tea, and fruit. Maybe I’ll even make some muffins….yes, warm muffins are definitely required. Pull up a chair and join the party!

104 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Rulers of Nations, Rulers of Souls

  1. trying to avoid writing a sermon, but at 8.45 pm on Saturday evening, I need to just start writing. unfortunately I feel like I haven’t read enough this week – just the normal busyness of admin catch up and meetings : ) Then today at a town fair all day. When I got home, I sat down and put my feet up and … fell asleep.
    working with Isaiah 36,37; and thinking about the voices we believe and the vision we live into.

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  2. I am preaching the parable of the talents and am working with David Lose’s suggestion of thinking about our image of God and how it shapes our images of ourselves and our world. A lot of questions jsut now and not a lot of answers.
    Off to do a funeral visit and hopefully more will come clear in my head while I am our of the house.

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    1. Seems as though there could be plenty to work with around that idea and the parable – our image of God and how it shapes our image of ourselves and our world. If one believes there is no God? If one believes in a God of judgement? If one believes in a God who predetermines everything and has a plan that we play into like puppets on a string? (that is always a powerful image when I think about social justice and those who do not wish to help the most marginalized through government programs…). If one believes that God loves us as we are. If God is a God of compassion. If God is a God of justice…..

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  3. voices and vision done.
    10.45 pm, so time to get everything ready for tomorrow, and get some sleep.
    Tomorrow I leave our service early, to go and work with another congregation on the process to call a new minister, tomorrows part is a survey of the congregation to help fill in the profile form.
    I am glad one of the lay people is confident to finish the service.

    blessings on those starting their day,

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  4. Going the way of Matthew 25, title: “Working For God is Risky Business”. Dedicating our stewardship gifts this Sunday and talking about what it means to step our of our comfort zones as God calls us to invest in people.

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  5. Good morning, preacher pals! As it turns out I am not preaching this Sunday. We ended up with a request to have a guest preacher who will speak about her Hispanic ministry and church plant in SW Detroit and also meet with our High School kids afterward. So….today will be complicated nonetheless – I have carpet being installed in the basement, the final repair from our horrible flood on Aug. 11 and an old cat who seems to be at the end of her life, a sad trip to the vet may be in order.

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  6. somehow it got to be afternoon already! I’m in the NL – Isaiah readings, though I think my focus is more on Is 2, rather than 36 & 37… still thinking it through – my midweek thoughts are a good start off I think. Though still not sure what to do with the Children’s time… thinking of chinese whispers – how easily things get distorted, and how sometimes we simply just need the source, and not everyone else? Though – not sure how that will work with coming together for peace…. still someway to go then!

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  7. I have Isaiah to work with as well, with a title of “Great King v. The Lord”…I think I was pondering how easy we find it to listen to those rumors and voices…but ultimately we need to be grounded in our identity as God’s people, and let that be our guide. So while the Assyrians wanted the people to give up their identity as people God had saved, Isaiah’s answer is “they shall beat their swords into plowshares.”

    Or something.

    Unfortunately, I have an all-day Presbytery meeting today, an hour and a half drive away from home. I was supposed to leave 4 minutes ago and I am still snuggled up in my fuzzy robe, under the blankets. So I’ll be back tonight, far too late, and wishing I’d had time for a nap.

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    1. Oh Teri – I just don’t understand the all day Saturday Presby meetings! Seriously? Hoping that the drive affords you time for reflection and not so many daily distractions that you can’t remember the ideas that may come from that time….

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  8. I had the brilliant idea to preach on the Psalm, which I almost never do, because I love the idea of “a thousand years in your sight are but a day.” Then I looked back and realized I did the same thing 6 years ago so perhaps not so ground-breaking! Or perhaps I really have been avoiding the parable of the talents! In any case, I’m sticking with the Psalm and writing a mostly new sermon.

    It’s glazing day in Pottery class, which means next week’s kiln opening will be our last gathering. I will really miss it. What I won’t miss: the pottery studio is in an old icehouse, which means there is no heat. And it’s cold here, for us!

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      1. I think, if we took this seriously, it could squash a lot of our pointless arguments about evolution, what happens after we die, the “rapture,” all kinds of things. God doesn’t see time the way we do. Which, when you think about it, is kind of a ‘duh” moment. Why would the eternal understand time in the same way as the finite? I will have to find a nicer way to say “duh” moment.

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  9. Hello, all!
    I am a week ahead in the lectionary due to the church’s big 60th anniversary celebration next week, for which we are using a text also used at the church’s inaugural worship service in the local fire barn, sixty years ago. But that’s my panic for next week. This week’s is finding something new to say about the sheep and the goats that doesn’t clash with this being our Pledge Dedication Sunday. We actually dedicate the pledges earlier in the service, though, and I preached directly on Stewardship last week. So I guess I can let myself off that hook.
    Yes?
    Please?

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      1. Thank you!
        I’ve got the Sheep and the Goats along with the Ezekiel passage about God as shepherd, gathering up the lost and lonely and injured, so I guess what I really ought to be aiming for is a message about care for others as an important part of being the church. It might be time for that quote that isn’t really a Teresa of Avila quote, if I recall Mary Luti’s scholarship correctly, about being the hands and feet of Christ (or God) in the world.
        I also wonder with the late passages in Matthew, and this would apply especially to the Parable of the Talents, whether Jesus wasn’t wondering if he would actually make a lasting mark, whether his use of the gifts given by God would be understood as successful. It’s a good moment to remember his humanity and the climate of that last week in Jerusalem.

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    1. definitely!! Sheep follow, goats go ahead – I seem to remember that from some ancient class… somewhere… (no idea why I feel the need to share this trivia….)

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  10. Preaching Psalm 123…asking God ‘s deliverance from shame. Hoping to preach a good word, that God created us for wholeness. We need to surrender our shame.

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  11. Good morning! I am on the Parable of the Talents and Thessalonians, having entitled the sermon “Take a Risk” for the bulletin before I settled down to do a lot of reading this week — so now I wonder who did and who didn’t take a risk in that story. At any rate, with an outline about risk-taking to live as People of the Day in the face of a merger or a closing, I am apparently going to ignore all the interpretations of the first two servants as conniving exploiters and BBT on the value of the dark so that I can continue to encourage my folks to see the future as adventure. Off to continue the bedroom painting project and to ponder courage and risk-taking.

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  12. I’m also in Matthew, and the sermon title printed in the bulletin is “Well Done!” – which seemed like a good idea at the time. Since our mid-week Bible study grapples with the text I am to preach the following Sunday, I am trying to answer some of the questions we didn’t have time to discuss on Wednesday night, and the big one is, “Why does the one talent guy get thrown into outer darkness? He didn’t squander his master’s money; he followed standard protocol (http://www.patheos.com//Resources/Additional-Resources/No-Time-for-Timidity-Alyce-McKenzie-11-07-2011?offset=2&max=1#ixzz3J6cXt6jw) so why is he punished, and does this mean it’s possible to lose your salvation?” Okay, we will save the Assurance of Salvation discussion for another time, but I do think David Lose helps with his “view of God determines how we act” suggestion, and I really want to hone in on the relationship between trust and risk. The master trusted his servants. Two of them trusted him back. The third one, not so much. Faith is more than just believing something to be true; faith means trusting in that truth to the point of greatest risk. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what he asks of us. Hot whole wheat biscuits with butter and honey are on the table. Help yourself!

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    1. Thanks for that reflection, PastorSings. It helps!

      I’m preaching The Talents and–confidentially–actively disliking this passage. I’m finding it almost irredeemable. Everything I’ve read so far seems to shy away from the fact that Matthew is describing a nasty, punitive God who shows absolutely no mercy or grace in this parable-and even the commentaries that advance a different interpretation acknowledge that they can’t make a strong case for their positions. I was going to preach “from the underside” and talk about why we need to look elsewhere for biblical guidance on investment…but I need to offer some Good News and give a nod to stewardship, too. Urgh.
      I think I’m going to lean a bit on Lewis Hyde’s book about “gift economy” vs. “commodity economy,” and the idea that wealth only benefits a community when people stop their fearful hoarding and actively circulate their resources instead. Still, urgh.

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      1. Hi, Holly~
        I found Tom Long’s book on Matthew helpful for this. He concludes that there is no way based on the love shown the first two slaves to conclude that the master/God is actually being cruel to the third slave. Read his response as ironic and you’ll see that it is the man’s fear that punishes him and keeps him out of relationship. Of course I read that after I preached it…last week. (See above.)

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        1. Thanks, Martha–and I appreciate the follow-up comments with useful quotes! I will make a point of reading TL, though probably not until the Christmas season winds down. Yes, this gets me where I need to go in this sermon. Thanks again!

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      2. I agree with Martha – read Tom Long. Completely different take. I’m preaching this passage tomorrow (first time ever, in 18 years of preaching!) and have ended up completely falling in love with it.

        A couple of helpful quotes from Long:
        “The one-talent man pronounces his own judgment. He gets only the master his tiny and warped vision can see. He gets the peevish little tyrant god he believes in…. The story is not about a generous master suddenly turning cruel and punitive; it is about living with the consequences of one’s own faith.”
        “If one trusts the goodness of God, one can boldly venture out with eyes wide open to the grace in life and can discover the joy of God’s providence everywhere. But to be a child of the generous, gracious, and life-giving God and, nonetheless, to insist upon viewing God as oppressive, cruel, and fear-provoking is to live a life that is tragically impoverished.”

        Good stuff!

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      1. But, but, but, my Reformed self splutters…is he (Tom Long) saying that God’s grace and generosity can’t overcome our own little tiny stingy vision of God???

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        1. No, I don’t think this is about some sort of eternal consequence, but about the lived-out consequences in our own lives. Another quote from Long’s commentary:
          “For those who live in the confidence that God is trustworthy and generous, they find more and more of that generosity; but for those who run and hide under the bed from a bad, mean, and scoring God, they condemn themselves to a life spent under the bed alone, quivering in needless fear.”

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          1. I think this insight pairs well with Malvina Reynolds’ song, “Magic Penny.” (Chorus: [Love]’s just like a magic penny: hold it tight and you won’t have any. Spend it, lend it and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor!”) Now I’ve got a sermon-closer, as well as a sermon middle!

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  13. Hi preachers and pals! I am hoping to finish up the last of my ordination requirements, a reflection on my ordination project, today. If I can do that, it means I have next week to do revisions, and I can send it all before Thanksgiving. I am then going to take FOUR DAYS OFF IN A ROW after working pretty much every day since September. So, high motivation factor! Unfortunately, my girls all have places to go, and their dad is on his way to Argentina, so I will be interrupt driven again.
    I did a lot of research on the talents passage this week for a reflection I gave at our midweek service and for the Bible studies. All the study participants agreed we don’t really buy that God would throw someone into the outer darkness. What I finally came up with from reading one of the commentaries (wish I remember which one) is that who we see God as, at some level, is who God is. The first two saw God as someone they would like to be in joy with, and so they were invited into joy. The third saw God as harsh and unyielding, so he received a harsh and unyielding God. Maybe that will help some of you, I hope!
    I’ve got some freshly made steel cut oatmeal (my new favorite breakfast), and some hot cocoa made from scratch (Hershey’s Special Dark) and with frothed milk. Happy to share. The sun is shining brightly on the fresh snow, and inside I’ve got a winter spice candle burning. Join me!

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    1. Thanks, Robyn– I really like what this author says, but I’m not sure I can quite get there yet, based on my current (limited) understanding of the text. I’m filing this away for future use, though!

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  14. The sermon title I chose early in the week is, “Hidden Treasure” – on the parable of the talents. We just had a “M&M fair” last week (mission & ministry) giving the various groups in the church a chance to highlight their work and hoping for new interest. It wasn’t as well attended as in the past. There is a spirit of ?something? in the church right now. I’m hoping to address that in tomorrow’s sermon. I also have to prepare for leading the adult forum on my sabbatical last summer. It was a new ‘thing’ for this congregation, so there is still a need for deep explanation. I’m feeling “off” this week as our latino ministry just ended. Long story. Deep disappointment, sadness, and anger. Four years of intense work, energy, time, and thousands of dollars. 70 new latino members. All gone. On the up side, it made balancing the budget for 2015 a breeze! I’m praying for a heart ready to forgive. It’s the best I can do right now.

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    1. Oh goodness, I am sorry for whatever happened to the Latino mission and ministry in your congregation. I know that it is very complex to launch and sustain this due to so many cultural and financial and language related issues. I hope the Spirit breathes over you all and brings forth new life in a new way.

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  15. I wasn’t supposed to be preaching today as it was to be our parish outing. Unfortunately we did not have enough takers for the bus so we have had to cancel. A great pity. And I wouldn’t have preached as we would have had an open air service and simply enjoyed nature in place of a sermon. Ah well . . . So instead I am talking of risk taking and trust.
    They have before them my risk taking . . . we are repainting the church and I said that if I am sponsored enough I will climb the scaffolding to the highest point and paint it. Oh dear, we have already got the minimum amount I set so on 13 December I will be taking a great risk. Especially as I am an acrophobic of note!

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    1. Oh my. I climbed scaffolding for my first job out of college, some 32 years ago…..it beat climbing the ladder I used before we purchase scaffolding. Still, I understand the fear and trepidation! But, what a clear incentive to raise money! That’s kind of exciting.

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  16. Tomorrow I’m preaching on the changing seasons, both the church and the natural world. I’ve made this sort of a tradition and do it every year on the Sunday before Christ the King. It works well for us here in the Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina. Sermon is here Besides, Zephaniah just exhausts me, almost as much as Amos did last week. Just not quite ready for all that ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’ talk. Blessings to all and keep warm!

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  17. Everything done but the conclusion…and I managed to work in three major pop culture references. For those of you who know me, this may be a sign of the End TImes.

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  18. I hope there’s a mocha latte left for me. What a great afternoon pick-me-up!

    It is 3:15 Central Time (U.S.) here and I have about 3/4 of a sermon that goes approximately along the lines of the above article that Robin shared. I’m wanting to focus on the task (the imperative?) to dig deeper into what God is revealing instead of being satisfied with first glance or first read or first impressions or — God forbid — platitudes.

    I am making chicken quesadillas for supper. Help yourselves!

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  19. Sorry to say, I am not a coffee drinker. I settled for a fun size box of Nerds from my daughter’s Halloween candy, but it worked. Coming on 600 words and on my way. Trying to work hard for another 1/2 hour, then some friends have invited us to dinner! I am feeling very blessed by good friends – another just brought me some OJ so I don’t have to go to the store tonight. Must. Stay. Awake.
    Blessings to all preachers and proclaimers of the word!

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  20. Looking at past sermons I’ve preached on this text (RCL) and I found this great story (I think) I used last time ’round. I’m copying here in case it is of help to one of you needing a good illustration. Which means I’m still searching for a good story. Anybody??????

    Here’s one for you….

    I haven’t forgotten an article I read in Reader’s Digest a few years ago. The article was written by Robert Kennedy’s oldest daughter, Kathleen. She said her Uncle – President John Kennedy, when asked what happiness was, quoted the ancient Greek definition of happiness as “the full use of your powers along lines of excellence.”

    President John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were remarkable brothers, and most certainly five talent people. They used their talents for the good of others.

    In the article she reflected on how her father had encouraged her to place her focus outside of herself, not dwell in self-pity even when life was hard. Another dimension of true happiness.

    Kathleen was 12 years old when her Uncle John Kennedy was assassinated. The day of the funeral, her father handed her a note. Even in the midst of his own grief, he was busy trying to comfort his brother’s widow (Jackie Kennedy), and work out the many arrangements that needed to be made following his brother’s murder. But the note he wrote to his young daughter did not convey fear, anger, or bitterness. He did not speak of revenge. He did not withdraw and turn inwardly. Robert Kennedy focused on the future.

    The note read, “Dear Kathleen, You seemed to understand that Jack died and was buried today. As the oldest of the Kennedy grandchildren, you have a particular responsibility now – a special responsibility to John [her cousin] and Joe [her brother]. Be kind to others and work for your country. Love, Daddy”

    What an incredible legacy to model for one’s child – such a deep sense of duty and responsibility. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend wrote, “[my father] had grasped the notion that suffering can be a path to wisdom, can be cathartic, a cleansing of the soul. And, all the time, he insisted to his own children that we try our best, do our best. He wanted to make sure that we had a sense of responsibility. To those who had been given much, much was expected.”

    Four years later, when Kathleen was just 16 years old, her own father was assassinated. She had learned how to deal with grief by watching her father’s example. So in the wake of her father’s death she carried his legacy forward and reached out to others in love and responsibility. Her father’s investment in her continued to grow and multiply as she reached out and invested in others.

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  21. The other preacher in our household has gone to the grocery store. Anyone need anything? I asked him to bring me home a sermon. We’ll see if he can find that.

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    1. hee hee…will it just be a “canned” version, though…or something from the freezer section? Or overly processed? Maybe he’ll find something in the fresh produce or bakery section, something yeasty or sweet?

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  22. I think I have a sermon! Which, after a long day of funeral (flanked by bishops and in danger of weeping with my own grief) and geriatric psych ward visiting (not flanked by bishops but in danger of weeping with frustration), is a blessed relief. I started earlier in the week and found that each of three interpretations I started of the parable ended up with, “which is all well and good, but not much of a gospel message”. Finally found the grace I was missing in the freedom we have to reinterpret and even rewrite our own stories, always with ending in God’s mercy.

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  23. I am just home from Presbytery, and about to scrounge up something for dinner and then think about writing. I really hope this one comes faster (even though I have no idea what it’s going to be about) than some previous weeks this fall…

    Feel free to grab whatever you can find from the pantry/fridge/freezer/counter and make it into something resembling a meal!

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  24. Done, for what it’s worth. http://pastorsings.com/2014/11/15/well-done-sermon-on-matthew-2514-30/
    We have our Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing party after worship tomorrow, so the youth helped haul down the loot that will go into these boxes and set up the assembly line this afternoon. Our annual church conference (aka annual business meeting) will be Tuesday, and the church secretary just gave her two weeks notice (she needed full time with benefits, and we can only offer part time). So it’s going to be a busy week. Get some rest, RevGalBlogPals!

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  25. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my research leads me to the Internet Movie Database, and from there it’s straight down the rabbit hole to Robb Stark playing Prince Charming opposite Lady Rose McClare’s Cinderella. We all needed to know that, I feel sure.

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  26. I am done, I guess. My brain is done. I am crashing, in desperate hopes that this night will bring more sleep than the past two have (coughing, asthmatic kindergartner does not make for a well-sleeping mama). Prayers for all still finishing up. Or just starting. Thanks for hosting, Terri!

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