This Advent, the news seems to be filled with stories of controversy, violence, hatred, prejudice, and overall meanness. It’s nothing unique, unfortunately, but this year feels particularly heavy to me. In contrast to the sadness in the news, the Philippians reading from the RCL jumped out at me – I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy… that your love may overflow. What a difference this is from the ways that people treat each other in the rest of society!

 

What message do your folks need to hear this weekend? The RCL also has an amazing prophesy in Malachi or words of hope in Baruch. The Psalm this week is the song of Zechariah, which is beautiful and could serve as the focus for a sermon. And, of course, there’s John the Baptist in the Wilderness in the Gospel reading for the day. Which passage (or combination of passages) will be your focus in worship tomorrow? You can find reflections on the RCL from earlier this week here.

 

In the Narrative Lectionary, Isaiah heralds the coming of the Lord. The leveling of mountains and raising up of valleys seems also to be a strong contrast to our world in which the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer. There was some thoughtful reflection on what this means for our churches in this week’s NL post from Tuesday

 

Where is the good news for you and your congregation this week? What other Advent preparations are filling your days and your worship services? Pull up a chair, help yourself to a cup of tea, and share your reflections and ponderings with us!

 

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68 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Thankful Prayers of Joy and Love

  1. Here early because I have wedding jitters, I suppose. Not the bride, or the mother, but the pastor. Rehearsal was Friday night, sermon is written, and all is well but sleep is elusive. Until the chamomile and honey replace visions of thermostat settings and candle wicks with dreams I guess I will ponder Sunday. I am preaching Luke 3 and what has my attention is v. 6 and more so, Isaiah 40:5 which is what John is quoting. The verses are “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” And “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,” Do our people know what salvation means? Do we know what they are hearing when we use that word? It isn’t ‘turn or burn’ , or even healing, but being brought into community and relationship. “All shall see.” God promises and it will be.

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    1. Welcome to the party! Here’s hoping all goes smoothly with the wedding this weekend.

      I like the focus on “all flesh” and how that tends to be quite different from the way many Christians view salvation. I wonder if the glory of the Lord is waiting on the “togetherness” of all flesh before being revealed? Salvation as reconciliation with all flesh – that’ll preach!

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  2. Malachi and Luke 3 this week – preparing the way.
    next week i think i will go with Luke 1 – Zechariah and Mary visited by an angel, then advent 4 Luke 1 Mary’s story and song.
    in my Girl Guide days it was ‘Be Prepared’ which i ma obviously not, because it is Saturday night and the sermon is not yet started!

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    1. Sounds like you have a good plan, even if nothing was written down until Saturday evening. “Preparing the way” could be interpreted in many different ways… let us know what angle you’re taking! I hope that your writing is going well.

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  3. I am calling this done, Malachi and Luke 3
    are you ready
    10.45 pm Saturday night, and time for a cuppa and some sleep before tomorrow.
    I am sure i could take some things further – like how can we be part of the road crew in making the path smooth and flat and straight – but that didn’t make it in anywhere.

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  4. Good Morning – I have two sermons to work on today – one for tomorrow and one for this afternoon. The afternoon is about new ministry with a congregation. Today is also ‘breakfast with Santa’ at my daughter’s daycare – so I need my sermon mojo to come quick and make a ‘straight path’ right into my head and out of my fingers.

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    1. Come, sermon mojo, come! Perhaps you’ll find some inspiration at the Santa breakfast… kids are usually good for new ways of looking at the world 🙂

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  5. Hi all!! It’s 12.30 here in a very wet and blustery Scotland… I have spent the morning helping to get the church decorated… now to see if I can gather my scattered thoughts together.
    NL and Isaiah for me… trying to reconcile lighting the Peace Candle this week, with the world as it is… we need God’s peace now more than ever before.
    In Scotland the big story is the vote in Parliament earlier in the week – virtually all the Scottish MPs voted against air strikes; but I know that locally many people will think it was the right thing to do…
    It is a balancing act…

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    1. Lighting a candle for peace in the midst of conflict – sounds like a good choice to address that tension directly. Prayers for peace and inspiration for you!

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  6. Good morning preachers! I am a pal today cause I don’t preach till Holy Family (Sunday after Christmas for Catholics, transferring my gritty/feminist Mary schtick from Advent IV)–plus we are on a couple get-away in Toronto! Today’s the Inuit museum by the Harbourfront, wayyy up at the CN tower, and if I can talk DearSpouse into it a seasonal concert tonight at one of the lovely old downtown churches. Happy writing!

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  7. Good morning everyone. Tomorrow, I’m filling in for a colleague/friend who had surgery earlier in the week. It’s a longer drive than usual for me, so I’m trying to get organized. And unfortunately, I seem to be catching the first grader’s cold. Today is full of elementary school fun, but I will check in later.

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  8. Back in the pulpit this week, and for the weeks ahead. I’ve taken the better part of 8 weeks off allowing the Curate to preach and preside for a long stretch of time in order to gain the experience of week after week of doing so. Anyway, I’m talking about guns and the need for a deep systemic change in the way people think about other people using the text from Malachi and Luke. Preparing for the coming of the Messiah requires interior work to navigate a choice between impossibles (which is also the theme of a presentation that Joan Chittister gave at Trinity Wall Street in 2003, which was made into a dvd and a forum curriculum through LeaderResources, and is our adult forum topic for this year).

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    1. What a deep, meaningful, and timely topic for your sermon and the adult forum. I hope your message is heard by your people. Let us know how it goes!

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    2. Terri, I love this thought of the navigating a choice between impossibles. I am preaching Malachi and am also grappling with the current ongoing violence in our nation and world. Thanks for this good food for thought.

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  9. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about the road home. I started yesterday, but didn’t get much further than the signal fires in Azeqah going out.

    Had a fellow call me yesterday, still pondering my sermon from last Sunday (I’m always amazed when I find out that not only was someone listening but it was still working on them days later). He told me I have “wonderful insights” and should write a book. I didn’t disillusionize him by telling him that I almost never have an original thought; it all comes from colleagues and commentaries.

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    1. Colleagues and commentaries and the Holy Spirit be praised! I’m glad you are able to put together all those pieces in a way that reaches your people. What a blessing to have feedback nearly a week after the fact.

      Hoping that your ideas for this weekend come together in an equally meaningful way!

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  10. Good afternoon, gals and pals. I am preaching Malachi and have been feeling really pushed to go outside my comfort zone with this one. So far, I have drafted an introduction, in which I confess that, when it comes to the violence confronting us daily in this country, I have basically gotten to a place of despair. Not sure if I will keep this intro, but it feels good so far to get these difficult musings out on paper. I feel like Micah’s harsh and powerful words hold particular promise for us during this challenging time.

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    1. I feel the same way about Malachi – the promise is wonderful, but how can we bear it? Prayers for the courage to say what you feel called to preach this weekend!

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    2. I’m in much the same place, earthchick. Not sure I can manage to say anything more conclusive about the direction Malachi is pointing toward, other than suggesting that there is the direction we are to aim toward even when we feel so despondent.

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  11. I’ve posted my draft. As I said earlier, it’s the first sermon I’ve preached in awhile. One thing I learned from listening to other sermons for 8 weeks is that less said is often more, so I’m working to keep my sermons on the shorter side. I think this still makes the point I want to make: these are complicated times in which to follow Jesus, but following him is our only hope.

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    1. This is wonderful, Terri. Thank you for sharing. I did find myself wondering if you could insert another line or two about the restoration in Malachi and the teachings of John the Baptist – this is the good news of the sermon, I think, and it goes by very quickly. But it is there, and it is good! Nice work on a very difficult subject.

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        1. So, I’ve tweaked it and reposted it. Still not satisfied, but under the circumstances I probably never will be. Thanks for the comments and feedback, all been helpful for my thought process and influenced what I’ve tweaked.

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  12. My Saturday rhythm is disrupted this week by an evening event at the church (which will be amazing–a musical theater showcase–but still) and therefore an afternoon meeting. I am trying to ponder now (I’m about to take a quick nap though, I think…hoping for some inspiration to strike while I doze), because writing will be later than normal. I had thought I might be able to get it done during the day today, but my day didn’t turn out like that. I did manage to get my hair cut though, and pick up the dry cleaning, and clean up the kitchen a bit, and and and. You know how it goes.

    Isaiah 40…the weekly theme is “Speak” …I have lots of things I want to say, I’ll just have to figure out which of them are actually related to the text and which are just things I wish I could get away with saying. 😉 It’s been a big week here between the national news/terror and the local school district settling an agreement with a transgender student in regards to the locker room. Lots of divided opinion in the congregation, on all fronts. “What shall I cry?” indeed….

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    1. A delicate balance between speaking what needs to be said and speaking just because you can 😉 Hope that you find that balance once you sit down to write! Peace to you in this busy Saturday.

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  13. Just returned from lunch with an old friend – a surprise blessing! I just found out two days ago that she would be driving through town. I’m not preaching this weekend, but am enjoying all the ideas and reflections that are being shared. Happy writing, everyone! I’m planning to do some baking this afternoon, so help yourself to some chocolate chip zucchini bread in an hour or so.

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  14. We’ve been shopping for a friend’s birthday present (in the toy department, in December, eek), wandered through the town’s Winterfest, declined a visit with Santa (mom is fine with the fact that they don’t want to sit on a strange man’s lap. Really), jumped in the bounce house, went on a horse-drawn carriage ride (it was free, even!), and enjoyed lunch and visits with friends at Dairy Queen. Now we’ve settled down for a siesta, but my sermon is not progressing very quickly.

    We made gingerbread cookies yesterday, and we’re happy to share them. (I am generally a entertain-yourselves-kids kind of mama, but this weekend is out of the ordinary because Daddy is out of town AGAIN, and we’re trying to distract ourselves from missing him).

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  15. Hello, all. I got a jump start on Thursday, and then had to set my sermon work aside for other obligations, but it’s been in the back of my mind all this time. I’ll admit that like earthchick, I’m feeling the despair of the moment and wondering how to find good news to bring. Meanwhile, we have an Advent dinner at church with Hanging of the Greens this evening, and I am leading a class on Advent tomorrow morning, so I’ve got a lot in my head and more distractions to come.
    What I would really like to do is stay home in my pjs and watch The Wiz Live!, which we DVRed and haven’t seen yet.

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    1. Hopefully this will be one of those weeks when your advance prep transforms easily into a finished product so that you can still watch The Wiz tonight 🙂 Blessings to you in this busy day!

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  16. Home from a memorial for the daughter of a long time parishioner that was a couple hours away and officiated by the deceased’s pastor…So glad that I went but am home and tired from the long drive. I have a sermon title; that is about it. I am going to try to get my head together and figure out where to go from there.

    Am also a bit — well, nervous– about tomorrow as something odd happened at our Advent potluck and carol sing. My children were well-behaved until the carol sing– but the musician reminded my son of his father– and well, wanted to watch him play the piano (my sons were 3 in Sept). Anyway, the musician didn’t want me to intervene when my son was “playing” along with the musician– Long story short, somehow the piano bench BROKE while the musician was playing…and I was mortified…and took my sons out of the room. Meanwhile the musician keeps playing. My sons sit in the hallway…and when the Trustee comes out…my little one asks if the bench can be fixed (yes, this was amazing.) and he wants to apologize but I am so triggered by what happened (missing my husband, not sure what to say to my gathered flock, and generally mortified) plus my folks are there and I was frustrated because I don’t really know how the damn bench decided at that moment to totally come apart. I hustled all of my family out of the room and home and broke down into tears. My mother’s response, “Oh, Dee Dee, this isn’t the first time or the last; the bench had probably been glued together years ago, and you’ll laugh about this in the future.”

    I just broke down and cried in the car all the way home.
    So, I need to bracket everything and bravely stand there tomorrow as if this widow/single mother thing is just a piece of cake (it’s NOT) and be brave with my little boy (though I did discipline him) when he gets home from his grandparents, because well, he is three…and try to bracket his comment to me this morning, “Mommy, why aren’t you coming to Mommom and Grandy’s house today?”

    Onto finding a “clearing.” That is the sermon title– “clearing.”

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    1. I should probably clarify that the musician is so talented that he could play expertly, even while the bench literally came apart underneath him to the carol of, of (I don’t remember) and 3 year old twins stood gawking.

      And my folks have the boys this evening 2 hours away so that I could get to the memorial (opposite direction) and get home to write uninterrupted. But still…. “Why mommy?” says my son. And I am asking, “Why dear Jesus did the bench have to come apart?” Fortunately, no one was hurt physically.

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      1. Oh my, what a weekend. So glad that everyone is safe, and the musician didn’t seem put out by the event, and your parents are close by and supportive. And feeling your pain and sorrow and awkwardness and uncertainty about the talk that has been going on since it all happened. Praying for grace – for you, your children, your parishioners, and for your sermon tomorrow. Peace to you.

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      2. Oh my….what an over flowing plate of emotional arenas all converging at the same time. No wonder you broke down in tears! And, gosh if I had a nickel for every time I “hear” my kids voices in the back of my mind….but thankfully, now that my kids are grown, I realize that most of those things I worried about are nothing they remember…resilient and sweet as kids can be. Hoping you now have a better night, or at least good enough to get this sermon written and enough rest to preach it tomorrow with the stamina required.

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  17. I’m trying hard to pull many thoughts together on the Isaiah 40 text. My monkey brain is distracted at the list of “to do’s” left before we leave in just over a week for Colombia. I’m also working on a Christmas sermon for a mission start congregation in a very poor area there… mostly persons displaced by the war. Context is everything… this won’t be a Christmas sermon I’ve ever used before. So, I’m scattered.

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    1. Lots going on in your world! Does this mean you’ll be visiting your daughter for Christmas? Many blessings on that adventure. Hoping that something comes together soon on the Isaiah text! The narrative lectionary page here had some good discussion on that earlier this week.

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      1. I’ve read the NL posts, and Working Preacher, and multiple other exegesis sources. I’m struggling as many preachers are this week with a word of hope that rings true in the midst of the crazy stuff in the world. An hour ago there was a report of a terrorist attack in a London tube station and Boko Haram suicide bombers killed 27 so far on Nigeria’s border today. Like so many others my heart is heavy. JOY to the World! needs to make it into my sermon. Hope. But I’m afraid it won’t sound authentic or believable. And YES! I get to wrap my arms around my daughter for Christmas! Can’t wait!

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        1. Goodness – hadn’t checked the news this afternoon or evening. Fresh headlines make it hard to preach joy authentically, but I know you’ll be able to get there! Blessings to you, and safe travels to Columbia for Christmas 🙂

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  18. I think I have an idea that might work– there is a poem “I’ve known Rivers…” by Langston Hughes with the refrain, “My soul has grown deep like rivers…” Well, I’ve known clearings, have you? Clearings like the kind that Toni Morrison writes about in Beloved where valleys and broken spirits are lifted up and bramble is cleared, clean away, to make shelter for dancing and praying and weeping. I’ve known clearings like this, and this, and this (have you?) God knows we need a clear place…Clearings like this poem too:

    Clearing

    by Martha Postlewaite
    Do not try to save
    the whole world
    or do anything grandiose.
    Instead, create
    a clearing
    in the dense forest
    of your life
    and wait there
    patiently,
    until the song
    that is your life
    falls into your own cupped hands
    and you recognize and greet it.
    Only then will you know
    how to give yourself
    to this world
    so worthy of rescue.

    Jesus was a clearing. The Baptizer was a clearing. Are we not called to make a clearing, or to point the way to clearings? Not by ourselves, not just to make a little private abode, but to make space where love can reside?

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    1. Love it! I also found a quote from David Lose in his devotion from last week (11.15.15): It’s not violence that is the greatest threat to us today, but fear. Fear that drives us to forget who we are, to see people in need as the enemy, and to place securing our safety and comfort above meeting the basic needs of those in distress. Fear is more dangerous than violence because fear can lead us to forget our deepest identity and betray our most cherished values.

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  19. Back at it. Sermon is rejuvenated, I think. Still need to go through the order of service to see what else I need to prepare. It’s a sanctuary in the round, which I have never experienced as a worship leader before, so I need to get my head around that, too.

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    1. Depending on our set-up, ours is sometimes in the round. If you can physically spend ten minutes or so beforehand figuring out where you want to be at each element, it might help. I mark my bulletin so I remember – it helps me to feel at ease if I have thought it through and walked it.

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      1. Thanks. I’m planning to get there early and have several questions to ask. They are super organized in the preparations so far, so I think I should have lots of wise help.

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  20. I have pieces and bits of a sermon that I have gathered over the week. At this point, I am tempted to print it out, literally cut it up and then see how it all fits together. I need to make this path straight in the next hour so I can get good sleep tonight. I am very thankful for our local ELCA synod that hosted a preaching workshop for Advent and Christmas back in September, led by a PhD Bible student. I have great notes to build on thru the entire season.

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    1. The literal cutting and pasting idea sounds to me like a leveling of the mountains and raising up of the valleys! Sometimes you have to do a little disassembling before you can get something put together right. Best wishes and happy preaching!

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  21. Well, late night writers, how are things coming? My husband and I are babysitting for our favorite nephew tonight (we only have one nephew 🙂 ) and so far we’re tag-teaming his bedtime, on attempt #4 to get him to sleep. I have a newfound respect for parents who do this every week while also writing sermons and staying sane! I hope that worship orders, family commitments, self-care, and of course the sermon are coming together just as they need to! Blessings to all in your final preparations for Sunday.

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  22. Calling it done. I’ve prepared all I can, so that I can have sufficient brainpower to deal with the parts I don’t know about yet. This congregation has unusually competent laypeople (or maybe I mean that their pastor, to a degree that is unusual, trusts them to be competent), so I think we’ll be able to figure it out together.

    Also slightly nerve-wracking: the Presbytery Executive (my boss, to the extent that I have a boss other than The Boss) is a member of this congregation and likely to be in attendance.

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  23. Ack! It’s 11pm and I am just now home and ready to write. ugh. I hope I can come up with something ASAP (I’d like to be done by midnight! hahahahahahah). The NL podcast was helpful I think…as long as I can make it applicable to non-preachers and also get around to the hopeful part, rather than just “wow, the world sucks….merry christmas…”

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  24. Well, that was like pulling teeth. But it will work, I think. If anything, it might create room for Mystery to show up. I am exhausted. It’s midnight here. Blessings to everyone on their preaching and passion. Don’t forget to say that you love God…because well, don’t we? Despite everything?

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  25. It went very well today. My people were so understanding; I found a way to introduce and laugh about the broken piano bench incident and preaching went very smoothly! Woot-woot! Praise God for ordinary miracles 🙂

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