Wherever in the world you are, hopefully times changes are past, seasons have decided to behave themselves appropriately, and holiday madness hasn’t taken over yet! In my home in the upper Midwest of the USA, I was doing yardwork in shorts and a tank top this past week! Somehow that doesn’t make me believe that Advent is a mere three weeks away. And yet it is, so our Scripture readings for worship are starting to point the way towards the coming of God’s Messiah.

mhGtEhOIf you’re following the Revised Common Lectionary, you have a Gospel lesson that lends itself well to the season of stewardship. Or does it? Is the widow giving her last few coins an example of faithful giving, or of an oppressive system? And if the latter, is Jesus playing within the rules of the system or challenging them by calling out the gift of the widow?

If you’re using RCL but don’t feel led to preach on the Gospel reading, there is plenty of inspiration in 1 Kings 17 (Elijah and the widow at Zarephath are fed by God’s miracle) or Ruth 3-4 (Ruth and Naomi proposition Boaz, who chooses to marry Ruth and be the provider for their family). Hebrews addresses the issues of Christ dying for our sins, while Psalm 126 gives us many reasons to praise God! Which text speaks to you? Discussion from earlier this week can be found here.

meXVe7oIf you’re using the Narrative Lectionary, you are given Elijah and the prophets of Baal on the mountaintop this week. The Hebrew people have divided loyalties, but Elijah calls them back to faith in YHWH. You may find inspiration in the discussion on this blog earlier this week. Here’s my deep thought on the passage: if they were in the middle of a drought, where did Elijah get all that water? Perhaps the miracle begins with people bringing water to douse Elijah’s sacrifice – they wouldn’t give up their water for drinking, cooking and washing in the middle of a drought unless they had some faith that Elijah could pull this thing off.

Wherever you are in your sermon prep, whatever your focus this weekend, welcome to the 11th Hour Preacher Party! I just opened the first pomegranate of the season, so help yourself to a handful. Please share your thoughts below, and blessings on your writing!

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105 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party – A-minus Three Weeks, and counting…

  1. I have a bare outline for the sermon and a planning grid for Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, all due on Sunday 🙂
    I have fresh-shelled pecans from my dad’s house to share. They are good raw, or you could bake up some goodies for the common table if you wish.
    I’m going with Jesus’ observation of the Scribes, who I read as being temple-centered, and the Apostles, who are constantly sent out: which is being faithful? which is caring for the least, the lost, and the last? looking in vs looking out? It’s not coherent yet, but it’s a start.

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    1. An Advent-Christmas-Epiphany outline? Well done, advance planner!

      Yes, I also noticed the contract between the scribe in last week’s Gospel, who challenged Jesus only to the point of making Jesus state his central message (almost apostle-like in the caring for others bit), and the scribes of this week who are portrayed as unfaithful. Hope the sermon development goes well!

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      1. I think it’s great to draw people’s attention to the positive interactions Jesus had with scribes–from the one you mention to those who praised his wisdom in the temple as a lippy teenager–as a balance and chance to educate against the anti-Semitic (and lumping together of very different groups) impression that careless preaching gives about Jewish leaders in the NT. I will also draw attention to the very problematic punctuation choice found in almost all translations, including NRSV, which i believe both comes from and fosters that: “beware of the scribes, who do xyz evil things” =all scribes have bad behavior. Take out the comma, which isn’t in the Greek and contradicts the positive portrayal of a scribe you mention just verses before, and you get “beware of the scribes who do xyz evil things”= some of them have bad behavior so watch out for them. I can’t believe I never noticed it before and will make a point of proclaiming the Gospel sans comma as well as explaining that in my sermon.

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    2. Back to ponder more – I like the both…and approach of sometimes we are called (as scribes) to face inward and take care of our own, sometimes we are sent (as apostles) to care for “others” – and sometimes each of those stances has a shadow side. There are three widows – each doing what she has determined is best for her survival. Still working.

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  2. First ?! My sermon is usually very much finished by now, but this week . . . much procrastination and not a clue. I wanted to talk about giving your life away and using the epiphany star words as what we might have to give (this will be the second to last Sunday for my congregation), but then I read so much about Jesus’ critique of the oppressive religious/temple system that I stalled out. I am hoping that as I hang out here tomorrow, a sermon crystallizes.

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    1. It appears that you and Amy were posting simultaneously, Robin! Blessings as your congregation prepares for its closing. In this circumstance, I think your initial instinct works – you can preach from the perspective of the widow who gives it all and then has to rely on the hospitality of others for her needs. Your congregation has given its all, and moving forward they will have to rely on the hospitality of other churches. It’s still faithful to the text, just from a different angle.

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    2. Robin, tears well up in my eyes for you as you prepare to close a beloved church that likely once did serve those opposed among them and did lift up the downtrodden but now has made the hard decision to close because of numbers and other reasons I’m sure. I think star words would be positive for them. Give them some direction or at least something to ponder as they prepare to leave their comfort zone of worship and step into (hopefully) a new space of home in worship.

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  3. Hello, All! Though I teach every week now at our (my) new contemporary worship service on Sunday evenings, it’s been a few weeks since I preached in morning worship.
    I’m taking on the Markan text, preaching this for the first time from the angle of the widow as oppressed AND exemplary. I’ve always heard this text preached only as “that’s how we should all give” so I’m in new territory theology-wise. I’m also going to take a short minute to remark on the fact that my Sr. pastor and I wear robes, but (hopefully) not for the same reason the scribes did. In light of these two streams of thought, I’m calling the sermon, “Not What You Think It Is.”
    Now hopefully I can find a sermon tonight, because tomorrow is full, full, full, and I don’t want to be back here with you all, (not that I don’t like you, ’cause I do” tomorrow night at midnight.
    Oh, and I have only a widow’s mite to share; coffee only. 😉

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    1. Sounds like a great beginning, Jan. I’ve shared before about the pastoral robe being a symbol of baptism, which used to be worn by all churchgoers but now is basically only symbolically worn by the pastors. This only really works if you use white robes… but wanted to share in case it’s helpful 🙂 Happy writing!

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    2. If coffee is still available I’ll take even though I don’t drink coffee and it’s only 2 in the afternoon. I can’t jump start myself today. An overly emotional week has just worn me out.

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  4. We are baptising to babies tomorrow so I am focussing on Ruth and how God works in our lives but also talking of the responsibility of the Christian family to work with God. The link with Ruth is a bit tenuous and the sermon is quite short but I hope it is saying something they need to hear!

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  5. Saturday evening [8.30 pm] today was part 2 of my father-in-laws 90th birthday celebrations. during the week I noted a phrase form rev mindi – How are we faithful with our lives? – and now i cant remember what i was planning to write about. maybe if i read over the rest of her article…

    i do have party leftovers to share – lemon cake and blueberry cheesecake,

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  6. Our church recognizes veterans this weekend, so I’m off lectionary to preach on that topic. I’m second-guessing my scripture choice of Revelation 1:12-18. The keys of Death and Hades stuck out to me, and the turmoil in Revelation fits with the combat stories I’ve heard and have been sitting with. But now I wish I had used the Mark text…it’s easy for the church to either honor or condemn war and those who “give it all” in war, without actually listening to the people who fought in our name or helping them survive the soul struggles.

    Anyway. Revelation can be scary and violent and we tend not to like to talk about it…but we have to, because Jesus is there with the keys ready to open up the hellish places in the world. And because we train people to go to violent and scary places to do violent things, and talking about it can be a matter of life and death for soldiers and, less obviously, for the rest of us Christians. I’m trying to say something like that, among other things. Maybe trying to say too many things…we’ll see. Come, Holy Spirit!

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    1. Sounds like you’ve got a good beginning! Way to be courageous on preaching Revelation – I like the parallel between the book of the Bible we tend to avoid and the combat stories that we’d rather not hear. And the widow giving her last coins is a familiar enough story, if you want to mention that too, I’m sure it will work. Hoping that it all comes together!

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  7. Thanks, Canoeist Pastor for the idea of relying on the hospitality of others. I may use that one!

    I have been up and reading for awhile, and now I am giving thanks for Karoline Lewis in Working Preacher. I think I had a bent nail, and she has straightened it out.

    Blueberry muffins, anyone?

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  8. Busy day here with a baptism and catch up work. I’m on the NL and have a sustainable sermon from a couple of years ago. So far I’ve never re-used a sermon that I’ve preached in the call – only ones I preached somewhere else.

    But I’ve got a busy week next week with meetings and a funeral, and next weeks sermon is an assigned sermon for my DMin so sustainable sermon it is. I’ll be surprised if anyone notices. And maybe a little flattered.

    I have some amazing raisin bread to share, quite yummy with cream cheese. And coffee – lots of coffee.

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  9. Okay–sister preacher friends– a true confession– I am having trouble finding an angle because so many of the readings feel “personal” to me. Being a fairly new widow, I am now living in an apartment– having sold our house because I needed to do so– but thought that my situation and the situation of the “poor widow” in the gospel had enough physical/emotional distance between us. Though I am not poor by a long stretch, several of my parishioners are well-off for this area, much more “comfortable” then some of our struggling families and myself included. It is Stewardship Sunday and I am concerned that no matter what I say I will be “singing for my supper” quite literally because, though I have more than 2 coins to put in the offering, I contribute a lot, given my circumstances (I hesitate to write that because one hand isn’t supposed to know what the other hand is doing). It is the widow part that is causing writer’s block.

    I was going to switch to the Ruth/Boaz/Obed scripture…but that is problematic too— as my son (who is deceased is named Obed) and I always thought of my husband as Boaz — this was “our” passage….and I just can’t go there.

    Lesson learned. I chose to follow the lectionary and thought that I could figure this out.

    So– I need to find a way to talk about the widow without taking this in a personal way. My heart wants to spend time with the “devouring of widows houses” and the powerful elite…but am not sure how to do this with distance. We talked about trust as a theme for our stewardship season. I am wondering about trust. Misplaced trust? Trust in ourselves? Trust in God? Trust in institutions? Trust in each other?

    And I have found a good thing about self trust from writer Brene Brown…a piece of writing that she did with questions assessing our level of self trust. It is called “BRAVING” and is an acronymn.
    B– Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what isn’t okay?
    R- Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do?
    A- Did I hold myself accountable?
    V- Did I respect the “vault” and share appropriately?
    I- Did I act from integrity?
    N- Did I ask for what I needed? Was I non-judgmental about needing help?
    G– Was I generous toward myself?

    I was thinking a bit about how this might be applied to the powerful elite in the scripture vs. the widow that Jesus sees and takes notice of….

    But I just don’t know if that is going to work at all.
    Then I thought about trying to re-use a sermon (that was written before I became a widow myself) but the problem is that I see the widow as oppressed more now than ever before.

    MMMM.

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    1. On second thought (or third), maybe I could nix the whole widow thing and talk about how trust is needed when you play Jazz, since we are having a Jazz Trio, as special music…and talk about how we manifest “Trust” in community. I have a book about Jazz and faith…by Donald Miller, I believe. Then I don’t have to go “there” with the widow exactly…and I can still preach something in which I believe and touch upon the failure of mutual trust (the widow trusts Jesus and trusts the folks who are leading but they don’t live up to that trust…”

      aRRGhhhh. Thinking out loud. I need to find the Jazz book. I hope I am not chasing down another rabbit hole.

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      1. I love the trust focus–definitely my preferred translation of pistis over faith because it’s so personal and whole person instead of just intellectual–and especially the jazz image. You could also relate it to stewardship and the balance of people giving in trust that God will care for them and that the church or justice-oriented group will use funds well–but also trusting themselves to discern well and know not to give too much or to the wrong place. There is all kind of trust in the story–the widow trusts God and maybe people in her life to help her which is reliable–she trusts the temple authorities to use the money well which may not be–people trust the scribes to help but some do and some don’t. I still remember how wonderful and generosity inspiring it was long ago-I don’t even remember the parish–to specifically hear this kind of discernment recommended by adding “please decrease your pledge if your financial circumstances have declined since last year” to the usual “give generously and if at all possible increase your pledge.”

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    2. Wow, there is a lot going on for you with these Scripture passages. I can understand why you’re struggling with a direction. Prayers for you as you grapple with all the emotions being stirred up.

      Stewardship, trust, widow’s houses… could you begin by telling your people why this Gospel reading is hard for you? Could you start by talking about the widow but then generalize to other groups of oppressed people in society? I’m sure that whatever you come up with will be powerful.

      Thanks for sharing the “braving” piece – that sounds like a good tool to use for sermon writing!

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    3. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I have made a list of widows (and widowers) well known to me to stare at as I ponder this sermon; I want to do justice to the realities of their lives, even if only implicitly.

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      1. Brene Brown wrote a book recently called Rising Strong. The acronym “BRAVING” is from that book. It is in a part of the book about failure and recovering from shattered trust (she refers to all kinds of shattered trust and references another book called The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman, which I have never read). I just want to make sure she gets the credit.

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    4. I also like the BRAVE acronym and will maybe even use it in my personal life as I struggle with being brave these days. I pray dear sister that you might be able to find the right fit for you and the congregation in you message — I have no doubt that you will. Remember we are hear to help support you.

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  10. I have another idea— what if the widow’s possible children were watching from the sidelines as she put those coins in the coffers? I know that our congregation has several widows who have “grown children” — and then I am struck by something that Colm Toibin said about his writing of Nora Webster…He said that it was hard for him to write about himself as a child in the aftermath of losing his father at age 12 but that he could write through the character of Nora ( a fictional widow). These were not his exact words but he alluded to how writing a fictional account allowed him to fill the blank page. (He gave a book store talk) Nora Webster is about a widow who tries to get back on her feet after the death of her husband. It is a good read. One of our church groups picked it to read and I alluded to it in the All Saints Service. I just wonder if anyone might find it plausible that this widow had children who were watching that day– children who may have desired those coins for themselves or who were trying to understand why Mommy gave to the church when they may have needed to beg for bread or supper or whatever. Or just wanted a special toy or little something extra.

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    1. I think the children looking on as the widow gives will really preach! I’m guessing it will strike a chord with many in your congregation. I have a family in one of my congregations who are exactly in the situation of adult children watching parents make life choices and give generously and wonder “Why are you spending my inheritance.” It’s caused a lot of pain and estrangement over at least a decade. The family is just now beginning to heal and reestablish relationships.

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  11. Third rainy weekend in a row here. We’ve promised to take the kids to see Peanuts this afternoon, which is playing at the theater here in our wee town.

    Preaching on the widow, mostly a contrast between her and the scribes. It’s partially a sustainable sermon, filled out and extended a bit. It could use some help, still, but I’m not sure if/when I”ll have time to rehab it.

    We have cinnamon toast from breakfast to share. Funny: my husband’s church always has cinnamon toast at the coffee hour. I offered it for breakfast today, and the kids said, in awe “*you* know how to make it?”

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  12. Not a lot to share here yet–we made the shopping list over breakfast–but when DH gets back from Meijer there will be fresh berries for the health conscious and maple and chocolate donuts for the treat conscious. It’s been quite a challenge adjusting to a new parish and area and to preaching formally way more often than in the past so I worked ahead and was almost done early…till last week when one of my usually wonderful male colleagues drove me around the bend with his happy clappy All Saints message. So I am condensing my previous general scribe and widow gig to diplomatically add, with a positive and feminist twist, the All Souls piece neglected though it is key to November in our Catholic tradition: praying for the souls of people–family members or otherwise– who were wounded and wounding while on earth rather than perfect and beloved. I will bring in C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce–best book on purgatory ever written–and a great recent quote on the subject from my own teen daughter. Both she and my son, totally raised on an uber loving God, naturally affirm because–rather than in spite–of that. Cause if you envision very few people in hell you’d better have a hospital/12 Step/restorative justice circle program as the first step of heaven–or the express pass admission of unrepentant abusers/rapacious scribes would make heaven hell for their victims/widows! And this is why I love the party and am so glad to be back to it–the rj circle example, which I love because it opens up the comparison with vindictive punishment which is the problematic aspect of the old purgatory stuff- literally came to mind and heart as I typed the other two which are my long time go to metaphors.

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    1. Wow some super powerful stuff in that. I never considered those that had done all those things being saved and in heaven (or at least not in a long time). Guess I got some work to mull over.

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  13. I think I’m getting a cold. Sure would rather not, because my husband is having outpatient surgery Monday and I doubt they’re going to want me carrying germs in; but there is no one else to drive him, so I will have to go. (I will do my best not to put it on the sharing table.)

    Years ago I heard a recording of Peter Marshall preaching on Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Unfortunately, I cannot remember a word of it. I must have been so captivated by his accent that I didn’t pay attention to the message.

    There are some people in my church who’d love to hear a “my God is bigger than your god” type of message, and may be bent out of shape if they don’t get it. But it looks to me like there’s a truth in the text that does not depend on exclusivism. Yes, the exclusivism is in the text, but the bigger message is that God can be trusted, over and above anyone or anything else in which we might try to place our trust. We don’t worship Baal today, and a message proclaiming our God’s superiority over the gods of other faiths is a waste of time because most folks in the pews are not being tempted to worship other faiths’ gods; they’re tempted to put their trust in other things.

    One of the exercises in Sunday school will be about idols in today’s world, so those who attend will already be thinking in that direction, I hope. What are the idols that tempt us? Money and financial security, obviously. Military might…although I probably won’t make too much of that on the Sunday before Veterans Day. Sports–we used to have a gentleman in a former congregation who attended the early service during football season because if he went to the late service he would miss kickoff. His wife was the choir director and the choir sang in the late service only, so he passed up supporting his wife and her choir to avoid missing a second of the game. There’s a great deal of unfocused (and, IMHO, misguided) nostalgia for some imagined “good old days”–in the church it’s, “It’s too bad we can’t do things like we used to do”; out in the country at large there’s an awful lot of shouting about “taking our country back”–without a lot of details about where we’re taking it back to or whom we’re supposed to be taking it back from. There’s an awful lot of our history that a fair number of folks would rather not go back to–I for one don’t have any interest in going back to the days when a woman couldn’t even get a credit card without her husband’s signature.

    But the message of the story is that God can be trusted. People called on Baal during a drought because Baal was supposed to be in charge of rainfall. But there was no voice, no answer, and no response; and the drought dragged on. (I think maybe we’ll leave aside the text’s interpretation of the drought as caused by God as punishment for their unfaithfulness…but even that serves the notion that it’s God, not Baal, who is in charge of whether it rains or not.) As soon as the people proclaimed that the LORD indeed is God, the rain began again. We call on our bank accounts, our investment portfolio, our government, our military, whatever, to protect us from the vagaries of life; but it is God who can be trusted to do that.

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    1. This sounds great – I especially like your point: “We don’t worship Baal today, and a message proclaiming our God’s superiority over the gods of other faiths is a waste of time because most folks in the pews are not being tempted to worship other faiths’ gods; they’re tempted to put their trust in other things.” This is a sermon that many of our people – and many of us preachers – need to hear regularly! Preach it!

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    2. I get your caution about Veterans/Remembrance Day but I think that, as others have said, it’s possible to call out our culture’s idolatry of military might (if your our stomach is strong search Youtube for the Full Metal Jacket version of “Riflemans’s Creed,” which is official Marine Corps training material) by focusing on the suffering of veterans, soldiers, and their families. Possible approaches which may fit you and your context: Their courage and generosity is abused when they are tricked into fighting unjust wars voted for by people who will never fight themselves nor see their children racism-and-poverty-drafted. The remaining sexism in the chain of command fosters a situation where pioneering women soldiers are more in danger from rape by superiors and comrades than death from enemies. The very exaltation of soldiers as heroes (including in church) combined with ideal masculinity prevents them from sharing vulnerability which can overflow into domestic violence and prevent giving pastoral support for moral injury. And of course wars make lots of widows and orphans–and could have made this one in today’s Gospel–whether from death in battle or the vastly higher rate of homelessness, addiction, and suicide from PTSD. Our own Wil Gafney is a former army chaplain and posted on FB yesterday that since 1999 5273 American soldiers have died in battle and 128, 480 by suicide–far worse than I had ever imagined.

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        1. Not to mention the ones dealing with Moral Injury, which the VA has only recently recognized as distinct from PTSD–and thus requiring a completely different response and treatment. The Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School is doing good work on this.

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        2. Indeed–both from general underfunding of mental health and the military’s unconscionable attempt to discover previous mental health issues so as to deny coverage and treatment to vets with PTSD (who need it all the more if the war trauma layers on earlier ones).

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  14. As usual, the HS spoke to me in the shower and now I have an idea to tell the Elijah and prophets of Baal story from the viewpoint of someone in the crowd.

    Quick – write it down before I forget it!

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  15. I never like the Sunday before Remembrance Day. It’s always a juggling act. This year I am going with the Mark reading. The core paragraph of my sermon is:

    As I ponder this story, I wonder whether Jesus calls attention to this widow and her gift as a way to highlight the injustice of a system in which some people have so much and others have so little,
    a system where the command to care for the widows and orphans seems to have been ignored,
    a system in which some receive honour and prestige because of their large gifts that don’t really cost them much – gifts out of their leftovers – while others who give all they have are ignored, mistreated, and forgotten?

    This POW in Hong Kong ( whose name I can’t make out) wrote, on May 16, 1942. (I found it in a collection of papers that my late husband had saved from a friend and Anglican priest, Jim Barnett)

    “In Vain”

    When I gaze upon the surrounding hills,
    Blossoming dales, mid countless rills.
    I think of the men who there remain,
    And wonder if they’ve been lost in vain
    For my heart is stung right to the core,
    By the useless, unfair toll of war.

    Where is the story books’ glamour and glory,
    Among those bodies so mangled and gory?
    Where is romance in the blowing to hell
    Of countless men by a screaming shell?
    Why be so primitive, savage and vile
    As to aim cruel bombs, at woman and child?

    It’s all very well for bands to play
    And cheer the departing soldier away.
    It’s nice for all a flag to wave
    For the man whose leaving, his country to save.
    On returning I wonder who’ll up to him dart
    And give him a hand, to get a fresh start.
    For victory in war the soldier pays dear,
    He hands out his life to a fat profiteer.
    Who while the soldier takes all the hell
    Sits back safely at home in a shell.
    When it’s over and hard to find jobs
    The soldiers are bums, the fat men are snobs.

    Were it not, for these scoundrels alone,
    Wars would almost be unknown
    For in their scheming, grasping way
    They bring war closer each passing day.
    Yet I’m sure there’s not a score
    Of common men, who’d welcome war.

    When the storm calms, there’s no more foam
    At last we return to our native home.
    I wonder if all these lessons we’ve learned,
    Will be discarded, laughed at and spurned.
    That’s why I can’t help but think with disdain,
    “Have all these men just died in vain?”

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  16. If anyone is hungry for lunch there’s chicken simmering in the crockpot in Tikka Masala sauce from Big Lots. MIl and FIL arrive for supper and to see our new place in four and a half hours so I’d better get cracking!

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  17. Joining the preacher party today for the first time in awhile; my current judicatory role has me out of the pulpit more than in it. I feel rusty and for some reason feeling particularly homesick for my own congregation, folks I know and who know me. Not sure why that has hit me today, as I’ve been “guest preaching” for over a year now.

    Anyway…tea kettle is on (pumpkin chai!), now on to the writing…

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  18. Tomorrow I have 4 communion services in a locked psychiatric facility. Will facilitated homily-discussions with adults, older adults and adolescents. Starter thought: when we are feeling lost, abandoned and impoverished, even our smallest gifts of love, hope, compassion offered to God are more valuable to God than that which is offered by those who come to God from abundance…. Learning to allow ourselves to trust God’s healing mercies more than suffering, it is only God who is faithful…. Will trust the movement of the Holy Spirit among the suffering hearts gathered for the rest.

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    1. Oh, that is so powerful for that context and anywhere marginalized people hear the Gospel. And I love that you are giving them a voice as I always did in the house church liturgies where I have mostly ministered as a Catholic girl priest. I hope to in the more formal (though smallish) setting where I now serve–especially when the health-snowbird colleague departs after Christmas and his husband and I will be up every two weeks instead of three. But I am new to the community so haven’t tried it yet.

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  19. I’m preaching on the Mark text, from the point of view that the widow’s gift was an act of power. It was a determined choice, a self-differentiated action that allowed her to function with love and integrity in a system that didn’t always model that behavior, as identified by Jesus’ comments about the behavior of the scribes.

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  20. I think I’m not preaching tomorrow–instead I’m going to ask people in the pews to share stories of times the church has been courageous (courage is the character of the week here, using the Elijah text). I may also ask for stories illustrating the other characters of the season (commitment, praise, wisdom, love, justice). I’m not sure the best way to ask, though. I have been asking each week “where do you see commitment/praise/wisdom here at this church?” and that is eliciting a lot of the same answers each week, so I need a different way to ask it. I’m open to suggestions that might get people talking and thinking about a variety of ways these characteristics can be seen in the congregation.

    Since I can’t think of ways to work that right now, I’ve finished my advent candle liturgies instead. If you need to procrastinate, they’re here: http://clevertitlehere.blogspot.com/2015/11/advent-candle-liturgies-2015.html.

    I’m off to see some friends visiting from Hawaii, and then to a colleague’s retirement party, so I might be back later.

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      1. It is not uncommon for me to ask people to participate in some way–by talking to someone sitting near them or by speaking out loud to me. Or both. So they won’t be shocked by it. This season’s planning team asked me to ask the question and have conversations in the pews every week, and that’s happened most weeks so far. I am hoping that tomorrow it will take the whole sermon time, AND that it will give me some tie-in to stewardship pledges (tomorrow is also pledge dedication).

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  21. I think it was Karoline Lewis who directed my attention to Jesus’ act of noticing the widow. From that point I wandered off to what Jesus notices/sees, what others in the Gospel of Mark notice and see. Then, having read the Gospel three times (think that this will be the last time I ever preach from this Gospel since I’m finding the prospect of full retirement more and more enticing), I started thinking about the completion of noticing in the Gospel of Mark which, I’m thinking is bearing fruit that will last. The circle leads me back to the commentary and the the challenge implicit in the short version of Mark–what will you do? Will you notice? Will you turn the other way? Will you reach out? Will you join in solidarity? A lot of thoughts. Question for me at this moment–what will I do with all of this.

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  22. Going out on a limb– Sermon title: Of Trust, Widows, and Improvisation…
    Discovered Coltrane’s “A Supreme Love” and the poem in the liner notes which is GREAT and has a line ELATIONS–ELEGANCE–EXALTATION. And that is how I see the widow walking forward, improvising, reflecting God’s elation, elegance, and exaltation… And I wrote a colleague who is a jazz musician and asked for his help on how Trust is reflected in jazz and his response sounds so applicable to the church for stewardship. I do mention the children of the widow on the sidelines and how they might respond if they were itty-bitty, or adolescents, or grown children watching their mama put in the coffers all she had.

    But the sermon thrust on Trust and the jazz theme has given me some much needed distance. Now I need to take a break. I listened to “Psalms” by Coltrane and some of the Supreme Love album. Wow.

    1/4 there with the sermon prep. Still shaky but I have a frame that will go nicely with the special Jazz Trio and my own reluctance to preach from the widow stance.

    God knows, we all improvise from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This sounds wonderful – true to the text while also being cognizant of your own emotions and identification with the text, which is really important to being able to preach it well. Wish I could hear you preach it tomorrow!

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  23. I think I have a sermon. I forgot all about the star words (which probably work better with next week’s “birth pangs” text anyway) and I THINK what I’ve said is that the widow. caught up in systemic injustice, acts as an individual in contravention of same, as we have done — that in closing our church and stopping the gross expenditures in overhead for a single small congregation, we are moving toward community transformation. I hope I said that, and in a way that makes some sense. Sometimes I think I am just trying to justify what we have done. While so many churches around us hang on by cutting staff and letting buildings crumble, we came to understand that that is not faithful stewardship, and reached what I think was a courageous decision to release resources for more productive use. But maybe I am completely wrong, as the emotional cost to a few individuals is very high. Well, I’m stopping. It’s still light and I want to get my last walking mile in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Robin, that sounds just right. What a powerful and Ignatian way to address the Word of God in its two forms: Scripture and lived experience. Prayers for everyone involved as your community takes this brave and holy and really hard step.

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  24. I think I’ve got it–the opening and maybe the closing too. I’m going to start with the Lewis and Clark expedition (my husband and I visited their 1805 wintering fort not long ago) and what they noticed. Then look at Jesus’ noticing the widow and then circle out to noticing and the difference between the way the folks on the Lewis and Clark expedition noticed and how Jesus noticed.

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  25. Who’s still writing? Are the creative juices flowing freely? Blessings to you if you’re still preparing for Sunday morning! I’m about to make a vegetarian lasagna for dinner, so help yourself to a piece in an hour 🙂

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  26. Preaching on Mark in the morning in my very stressed out drama overloaded church. Computer-gate is still hovering over us. We have learned that a member was using the office computers to spy on me and on the secretary. Not sure what their motivations at this point, not sure what to do about it. This member and an elder left the church rather vocally a couple of weeks ago before we knew the full extent of their actions. Emails have flashed around the congregation and a great sense of mistrust and uneasiness surrounds us. This is the kind of thing that could kill a church.
    Meanwhile I’m battling a migraine, dealing with three needy littles trapped inside due to weather, and I’m just in a generally stinky mood.
    But, I do have fresh cinnamon apple chips to share and will soon have Doritos casserole in the oven.(not healthy, but a guaranteed kid hit)
    I also found an old sermon that I revamped a bit that should work for tomorrow. It’s available over at my place if anyone wants a glance.

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    1. Oh, my gosh, what an ordeal. So glad you could turn to the sermon barrel (as my undergrad adviser called it) and praying for strength and healing for you and community alike. Yayy cinnamon apple chips!

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  27. Lasagna, yum! I am finally over the hump and grateful for the Spirit’s inspiration on content *and* on calling Mom and Dad DH to put off supper for an hour; for DH listening to each paragraph as I went along; and for this supportive community–especially those doing discussion/sharing style pieces. That helped me to decide on that in as a great way to address an intense topic as well as paving the way for more interactive homilies in the future. I am starting with a fun “trivia quiz–make Sr. Mary Margaret proud” about All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos, and purgatory-related vocab. Then I will open to sharing about people’s memories –positive or negative–and present beliefs on the topic, and end with a brief statement of my own positive take bringing in widows and scribes, C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce, my learning from research today that the rabbis of Jesus’ day actually had a purgatory-style concept as some people would get released from Gehenna (they varied in levels of mercy) and restorative justice circles as an alternative to retributive punishment. Which, comes to think of it, makes the communal discussion method perfect for the topic. So I feel good but also really tired and very aware of the clock ticking down to guest arrival in 72 minutes! So I am relying on that sisterly blessing to finish the race….

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  28. It’s Saturday. When I accepted the opportunity to preach this week (Head of Staff is on continuing ed), I knew we had a Presbytery Pastors’ Retreat on Monday and Tuesday. What I could not know was that while we were gone, a called Session meeting would become necessary for Thursday evening and a death in the congregation would necessitate a funeral this morning or that last week, the doctor would relent and schedule a heart procedure for my dad on Wednesday. It is Saturday at 4:30 p.m., and I am trying to figure out where the sermon on Ruth is going to go. Is anyone else preaching about Ruth and Naomi and the radical hospitality demonstrated between them? I really need to get in on that conversation …

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    1. Hi, Julie~
      We also had a Narrative Lectionary post about Ruth a few weeks ago here: https://revgalblogpals.org/2015/10/13/narrative-lectionary-lovingkindness-personified-ruth-11-17/
      What a week you’ve had!
      I did preach on Ruth over the summer, with an emphasis on relationship as expressed by learning each other’s languages. That’s not quite where you seem to be headed, but hopefully by now you’re farther along. I saw your comments earlier, but was in the car coming home from a wedding (as the passenger!) and couldn’t respond from my phone. Bless you; I hope all goes well tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Martha! I’m afraid I didn’t even know this feature existed and am just now reading your note. How lovely of you!! What a joy it is to participate in the connection all church!! The sermon did, in fact, go well. Thank you! I appreciate your kindness … 😊

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  29. okay…signing off here. Sermon is done– rough in places, but done. And I think it works, given everything. Sitter cooked tonight so that I could finish writing (God, but it takes me FOREVER it seems to write, even when enjoying the process). Egad. Anyway, we have a potluck tomorrow and I am DETERMINED to bring something. I tried this recipe twice for hash brown “nests” with egg, bacon, spinach, and something else…I need to go to the grocery store, double the recipe, and get cooking.

    The sermon has been set to simmer.

    Children’s story is non-existent right now…hoping the grocery store will help. There is something about all the people moving forward in the checkout line that reminds me of this story about people moving forward with their offerings. Not sure why. Probably because the brain is fried right now.

    Thinking of doing something with TRUST acronym…I seem to be all about acronyms today.
    This is what I came up with…

    Truth—tell your truth
    Reliable—be reliable
    U and Me and God
    Seek—Seek the Kin-dom, Seek the Spirit
    T—Toward a larger vision

    Maybe that could be a children’s story. We are doing Trust as a stewardship theme.

    Maybe this could be a visual.

    Maybe I need to get my butt to the grocery store. The sitter leaves in 2 hours. Yikes.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I’ve visited my usual children’s sermon sites but haven’t found the right something for the Mark passage. Chidren’s times are so hard when guest preaching. Sigh. If anyone has ideas, I’m all ears.

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  31. I’m back, with chocolate pudding pie and whipped cream to share–messy but tasty! House got picked up rapidly, dinner and conversation were great, MIL and FIL are actually still talking to DH but I signed out to write my last paragraph for after the sharing, inclusivize and print out the lessons, and write some prayers of petition if I have time and energy left. Good luck to everyone else still working.

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  32. I am late to the party but so grateful for all of you! Thinking about Ann Weem’s poem The Widow’s Mite here (sorry, I do not know how to embed this here!) and what it means to not be able not to give everything…the transformed heart. That so few of us know about. I have a good story to start off with…not sure about a conclusion. But, it will come!

    For the kid’s time I am thinking of getting out the United Thank Offering boxes and explaioning what a “mite box” was….(some of you are too young to remember those!)….I want to ask the adults to empty their coins into the boxes, but that kind of forced giving is not a very good object lesson to “give because you can’t not give!) However, I LOVE getting people to empty their wallets!!!

    Have a great evening…leftover Halloween candy here…PLEASE save me from myself!!

    https://books.google.com/books?id=OLuO6d6ouDsC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=ann+weems+widow%27s+mite&source=bl&ots=9lNKkvln0m&sig=KASdSkkM_ZDlftB-jK0SbrQVfhk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAGoVChMI1Ijg–z_yAIVTsZjCh0cDwuH#v=onepage&q=ann%20weems%20widow's%20mite&f=false

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    1. Glad to have your company as I struggle through this one. Went to a birthday party. On the way home my husband told me how he heard the Widow’s Mite. Not the direction I would like to pursue, but one that probably is dominant in the community of hearers. It’s 9:16 here, and I’m back to the drawing board. Stacey, where are you serving? We’ll be in the Bay Area around Thanksgiving. It would be fun to catch a service at your church.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. This two pastor household is having an overfull weekend (funerals Friday and Monday, out-of-town wedding today, and oh yes, church tomorrow). I have a sermon now, but it definitely lacks polish. 😉
    That may have to wait for morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Sermon is done – A Tale of Three Widows – what is destroyed (the Temple) and what lives on (the widows and their stories). It’s not my best, but certainly not my worst. I will be polishing during my two hour drive, but all in all I think God will be blessed.

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