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This third week in Lent, how are you doing? Is your energy flagging? Or are you being sustained on the journey? Is the Spirit that sustained Jesus in the wilderness holding you up?

Are you in the mood for Repentance or do you need some of the abundance of which Isaiah speaks  – just two of the RCL Readings? Or will you be tossing a coin to share one of the NL readings?

Check out our  Narrative Lectionary and RCL Posts from earlier this week to help you along the way.

As always , here at the Preacher’s Party, we have plenty to share: Sermon thoughts and snippets, children’s time, take home ideas, Lenten disciplines and creative liturgies. Share what you have and, if you don’t see what you need, please ask.

We make this journey together, one step at a time, hearing and sharing God’s word along the way. Together we will find a way to be in the wilderness.

90 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher’s Party:Still in the wilderness

  1. A parishioner’s 27 y.o. grandson was convicted and yesterday sentenced to 40 years in prision (with 20 suspended) for charges of child abuse that resulted in death of his son (my parishioner’s great-grandson). I am caught by how unable the family is to accept that even the possibility that the “R” is responsible, even with a prominent medical examiner’s testimony stating the 3 month old baby died from trauma. Shepherd, Lord; shepherd your people and fill us all with your mercy and peace.

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    1. oh Jeanne – what a terrible mix of emotions they are all going through. Prayers for you as you gently minister to them
      and for them all as they grieve and come to terms

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    2. I’m so sorry. How sad and tragic. How deep the river of denial masked as it is in the love of one son even in the death of another. Perhaps one day they can see the truth, and love him anyway, in all his brokenness? Hopefully that, rather than grow bitter? Holding all in my prayers.

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  2. My last Sunday before a three month sabbatical. I fly out of the country on Wednesday! I am using Edward Hays story of the fig tree (from The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop) to speak about our uniqueness. I want to leave on a positive note – an invitation to consider our gifts and calling.

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  3. Tomorrow is our annual Cradle Roll Service. It has traditionally been held on Mothering Sunday but we have not had a great response but this year we decided to try separating the two and we have had 7 families saying they will be there (a lot better than the 1 we got last year) so I am feeling positive. I have baked cookies as part of a talk on Fairtrade at the beginning of Fairtrade fortnight and the service is written. All in all things are looking up after a tough few months!
    And as I am about to bake another batch of cookies I am happy to share them with you all

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  4. At the start of Lent this year I wrote a wee study guide for personal use – with the Sunday readings and some reflection questions for each week. There wasn’t a huge take up, but those that are using it seem to be finding it useful.
    This means I’ve had all the themes pre-written. For this week, I gave them both readings (NL) for Sunday and told them to compare and choose… which I also did through the week.
    During the week, as I reflected, i have been more and more drawn to the parable of the tenants, and something along the lines of how easy it is to a) abuse our privilege and b) assume because we worked for it, it is ours….
    This would be a hard sermon – which I am not sure I have the energy or reserves to preach. I need to ponder some more and choose tenants or widow…
    hmmm…..

    we had friends round for supper last night so I have lots of lovely tapas left overs – go raid the fridge!

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            1. I was appreciating the part that “God is no absentee landlord, but the one who watches over me, willing me to make good choices………everything we have comes of God, is of God, will go back to God.” It can be difficult serving the landlord who is ‘somewhere in a far country’. You are right – God is not far, not absent, he is with us on the journey of being good tenants of our lives, our time, our gifts and talents. What we have is of God, and we must recognize that, but what joy to know he is with us the whole journey helping us with those tenant-choices! Thanks!

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  5. I have mainly used an old sermon – one of the positives of having recently moved.
    Sin, suffering and bearing fruit
    tomorrow afternoon I am on retreat until midday Wednesday, with a group of Women in ministry from within the denomination. which means probably another recycled sermon next week on the father with 2 sons.

    I am about to put the kettle on, help yourself to a cuppa.

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  6. toiling…. I have been up half the night with a really sore stomach (my own fault for not taking my anti acid tablets and going out for a lovely meal last night) Stomach is settling thanks to some ginger tea but energy levels are low….Also carrying guilt of not making the Fairtrade Town Coffee Morning I was supposed to be helping at….

    I am on the tenants….so far have the throw back to Isaiah 5, the setting in context of Mark’s first listeners and now going down the route of ‘if Jesus was provoking the Jewish leaders then, how does this parable speak to us now….where are ‘You’ in this story…’

    We have communion tomorrow so I don’t need a long sermon….which is probably just as well…

    The only food I can face is some dry bread but you are well to have some and the ginger tea is lovely.

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  7. I have Jesus talking about the people killed when Didcot power station collapsed on them (which it did, earlier this week)… but also taking a positive stand on repentance – when your satnav tells you to turn around when possible, it’s not about retracing your steps, but about going on to the correct road, where there is abundance… repentance is about looking to the future, not the past. I expect it will make sense when I preach it….

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  8. I’ve pulled up a sustainable sermon to help mask the fact that I feel so empty when it comes to preaching these days. Empty. I know I need a good long break – not because I am tired but because I am depleted. It’s a very weird feeling, one that has been growing in me for a couple of years and is now entering, I think, the depths. I know it will pass, but it is no fun being here, in this interior place. Anyway, my sustainable sermon contained an illustration that I can reuse even though I unpack it in a whole other way. The sermon is fine enough. I’ll keep tweaking it and post it later. Praying for all the ill and hurting and struggling who have found their way here today. Thanks for hosting, Liz!

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  9. I am, rather unusually, up and working in the daytime today. I have a funeral today for the sister of a member–she wasn’t able to go to the funeral where her sister lived, so asked that we have one here too. I am hopeful that many people will come to support her, even if they didn’t know her sister. I’ve written a brand new funeral homily to go with the texts she chose–Isaiah 40 and John 14, for a woman who is described as “loved to entertain, adventurous spirit, had a mind of her own, wanted to right the wrongs of the world, would go to people’s houses and take over their kitchens, laughed a lot and loved to have a good time.” I super love the image of “many mansions” when it comes to someone who loved to entertain!

    When I get home this afternoon I plan to work on tomorrow’s sermon, which uses the triumphal entry, temple tantrum, and render-unto-caesar sections of Mark 11-12. The theme for Lent is “Upside Down faith hope and love” so we are turning things upside down by doing Palm Sunday in the middle. eek! The sermon title is “Whose Image?” …I have a sermon on the taxes to caesar business that may see the light again, depending on what I think of it when I re-read it later.

    It’s possible that I have a meeting tonight about Interfaith discussion groups/education, so I want to try to be done before that. And that way if there *isn’t* a meeting (also possible–there are a bunch of crossed email wires) then I have the evening free to think about where to eat when I go to London with my dad…in three months. haha.

    I have banana pudding to share!!!! Please eat it, because otherwise I’ll be forced to eat all those nilla wafers….

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  10. I was distracted by some family illness this week, so I’m trying to give myself grace for writing at the last minute–for our Saturday night service :(.

    I found inspiration for Isaiah 55 in an old post by lutheranjulia, https://revgalblogpals.org/2013/12/09/narrative-lectionary-what-ho-edition-isaiah-55/. I’m going with her idea that when the people return to Jerusalem, they’ll find a lot of tempting idols–the broken pieces of what was once great, their own fear/discouragement, etc. On the flip side, I bet it would also be tempting to stay put and keep moving forward in Babylon and forget about what was broken. But God invites them/us to a way of abundance, which is an invitation to return and encounter the brokenness without getting stuck in it or idolizing the past. Right now my problem is I’d like to talk about how this works for us both communally (with things like racism) and personally, and I think that’s trying to say too much. I’m also really tempted to use “Make America Great Again” as an illustration of idolatry, but I don’t know if that’s wise. Maybe it could be “Make Israel Great Again.”

    I don’t have any food, but I have a friendly cat to pet if anyone needs some love.

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  11. Sadly, the only “sustainable” sermon I have for this gospel text I preached at this church three years ago. Also, Episcopalians don’t get Isaiah 55–we get Moses and the burning bush and I AM. So…too many things spinning in my head from the week’s events for this late on a Saturday! Last time I focused on theodicy. This time, probably repentance, turning toward new perspective and new life. We are in the midst of a five church Lenten study using Jim Wallis’ new book on racism as the framework. Repentance was one of the topics this week–so there is that link. With the book, repentance has a lot to do with acting–nourishing that fig tree, giving it the best chance of flourishing. In that sense, I can see the burning bush as God in us, firey and hot, flaming but not consumed.

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  12. Parable of the Tenants. Yuck. What was I thinking? Title is “Another Vineyard Full of Stinkers,” alluding back to the Hebrew word we translate as “wild grapes” in Isaiah 5. Crystal actually used the same picture on the bulletin as she did last fall when I preached on Isaiah 5. Don’t know if anyone will catch that or not. This time the “stinkers” aren’t the grapes but the tenants.

    One of the commentaries I read talked about how this passage is difficult to preach because it has been used to justify anti-Jewish prejudice and persecution. I’m planning to address that in some depth in Sunday school, looking not just at this text but at many in the Gospels and elsewhere in the NT.

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    1. LOL – “Another Vineyard Full of Stinkers”…I love it. I also love the wild grapes imagery when that text comes up, somehow I keep thinking, God created these wild grapes and maybe they are more than we think they are, somehow we want to deride those wild grapes, but maybe they are spirit filled? I know, the text doesn’t really say that, but its what I always think…so maybe a vineyard fully of stinkies offers a level of divine creativity we might miss if we don’t go looking for it? (Can you tell, I am clearly off my rocker…).

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      1. Well, that’s possible. I think when I preached on Isaiah 5 some time ago I mentioned that my former Lutheran colleague in the next town over made some really good juice and jelly from wild grapes he gathered. But the text itself says that God judges the persistent inability of the vineyard to produce good fruit. Isaiah 27:2-6 offers another alternative (but does not gloss over judgment if the vineyard is unproductive). And then there’s John 15, another place where Jesus reworks the vineyard imagery.

        In the case of the parable it isn’t the vines that are the problem; it’s the tenants. Jesus appears to be speaking strong words to the religious and political (the two were pretty enmeshed at that time) leadership. He describes the history of powerful people not wanting to hear what prophets have to say to them, and killing (or at least maiming) the messengers; and clearly he is also predicting his own death yet again. The religious leaders understand all too well what he is saying to them. But what is he saying to us, here and now??

        The Feasting on the Gospels commentary says that some of the criticisms leveled at the upper-class folks in Isaiah 5 would also fit the powerful folks of Jesus’ time–the business about joining house to house and field to field, concentrating wealth and displacing those who depend on their small farms for their subsistence.

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  13. I got my sermon done early this week, due to the flu going around my house. I thought I would eek by, but no suck luck. I have a fever. Fortunately I do have an elder who can read it well – drama background. Ugh.

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  14. Working on Isaiah – have a decent sermon on the RCL Gospel from 3 years ago, but it seems too pointed to reuse this year. Basically I said “You’re like the fig tree – where are your fruits? As a congregation we might be doing some good stuff but there is so much more we could do, so let’s get to it!” This Sunday we’re having a baptism of a 6th grader (we usually baptize infants) so I want worship to feel more celebratory than that!

    The problem is that I don’t have anything usable on Isaiah yet. I appreciate the links and ideas that have been shared here, I’ve done lots of reading, and have many thoughts turning over in my head. Just need them to come together into a sermon that’s right for this time and place.

    On the plus side, thanks to Worshiping with Children, I have a kids’ sermon prepared already, and that’s usually the last piece to come together!

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  15. I’ve just returned home from a two-day Presbytery meeting, with some pre-meeting meetings before that. I’m a little tired of thinking deep thoughts, but I did sleep well last night and enjoyed being with good friends.

    I’ve got the beginnings of an introduction on the Isaiah passage, but no idea where I’m going after that. So, I’ll be here a while.

    Thanks for the kid’s sermon reminder; I need to think of something for that, too.

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    1. Monica, I, too have been away this weekend – at a training event. But I stayed up far too late, catching up with friends. I’m really tired tonight! I should know better…

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      1. Someday…when I’m a grownup…I will learn not to stay up late talking to my friends! I stayed at the home of someone I didn’t know (the Presbytery arranged hosts), so that made it easier to say goodnight!

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  16. re. the all-age or kids sermon part:
    over winter, and around Christmas, there was a pic of snowpeople, and a caption along the lines of ‘do you see the panda?’
    That’s now printed in my order of service. We’re going to look for said panda, and then I’ll riff a little on the Isaiah text re. seeking the Lord while he may be found’…and that he is ‘near’. Where might we see the Lord today… acts of kindness, etc.

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  17. Working on the NL Taxes to the Emperor passage. Mostly sketched out a sermon, but still fleshing it out. So thankful to be at this point before dinner for a change 🙂

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  18. I heard the story today of an experiment: Folk were asked to watch people passing a baseball and count how many passes they made. During their obs, a gorilla walked onto the scene and then walked off again. Less than half the folk counting passes were aware of the gorilla. What does that say about our ability to see beyond anything?

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    1. And on that note, I’m going to call it a day, gone 11pm in UK. The late night partiers will be here shortly. Praying you all get to where you need to be and get some rest too. Thanks for joining the party.

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    2. I was actually in a seminar yesterday that used this video. It was with a room full of police officers and, no joke, maybe a handful of any of the 80 of us saw the darn gorilla. It was unbelievable.

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  19. ok, I’m here! Time to get this party started. 😉 The funeral was lovely, and the evening meeting was moved to next week, so it’s just me and the sermon.

    I’d like to say I have an idea for a beginning so I expect the whole thing to just flow and I’ll be done in an hour. But I’m really tired so that’s probably not how this is going to go down!

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  20. I’m here now too, well in body but not so sure about the mind. My brain seems to be in a state of permanent pause this evening, and the words are not flowing together. A big sigh … maybe a good nights sleep and a very early sermon writing session in the morning will ‘bear fruit’. Perhaps I need to be like the fig tree and let the manure (i.e. all the experiences from the past week) do its thing? Blessings to y’all as you read, write, sip, pray, think and preach.

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  21. Just finished dinner with my sister and her adorable kids… I’d much prefer to be playing with them than writing this sermon, but I think people will notice if I don’t have something prepared for tomorrow. So, here’s what I’ve got so far (using Isaiah): We like people to get what they deserve. But God’s ways are not our ways – God gives mercy when we want judgment. And God goes even further than that, by offering good things to all people who turn to God – wine and milk and rich food. Those good things are available because of God’s great mercy…. and then we sing “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy”!

    Hoping that those few sentences can fill themselves out into a sermon 🙂

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  22. Mine on Isaiah is turning into a communion sermon. Too bad we aren’t celebrating communion tomorrow.

    Susan, my brain seems to be on permanent pause too. Not to mention, the minute I get going a little, the 6 year old comes in with a distraction. She is a living, breathing distraction, actually.

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    1. I’m at a church where we celebrate Eucharist each Sunday, but in my last congregation it was less frequent. I used to love it when the Spirit led me to preach about Holy Communion during those Sundays, making it obvious to all what was sorely missing 🙂 God’s ever-present sense of humor and nudging….

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  23. My children had about a dozen meltdowns between this afternoon and bed-time; why is it always on the nights when I am wrestling with the sermon? arrghh. And the irony of preaching on listening for God (off-lectionary here, cause I am doing a book study) and having to look up a bunch of stuff to make sure that I am remembering scripture correctly…despite having worked on this earlier in the week; my memory isn’t what I’d like when there are multiple distractions. Sitter has left for the night and kids are in bed…so now I am here. LOL. I just wrote about the questions that God always seems to ask our ancestors (and us) “where are you, Adam?” and “why are you here, Elijah?” and “why did you laugh, sarah?” and how we actually need to be still to hear those questions and our replies…

    I have 900 words…but miles to go before I sleep.. and maybe too many questions to count.
    Doing Eric Elnes “Gift of being thunderstruck” but I am more inclined to speak of quiet thunder, or reverberating questions…hence the wrestling. Really like Lonnie Hicks phrase, “Love’s first utterings were not loud but soft rustlings from a softly lilting heart.”

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  24. Good for you, Laura! I’m getting there. I’m afraid it’s as fuzzy as my head is right now, but maybe I can tie it all together at the end. I think the little one is winding down toward sleep, finally, so maybe I can concentrate a little better.

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  25. I was done an hour ago. I should be asleep, but…
    RCL here, and mostly using a hook about how we hear/see a thing: that the group coming to Jerusalem and going “see that horrible Pilate….dead Galleons. ..” and J”s response demonstrates how they see God. The wee group like most in that culture, see ‘good stuff/good times’ as rewards for good behaviour. ..bad stuff as you deserve it cos you basically suck. Jesus going ‘nope, we call that victim blaming, kidz, don’t’ And then reframing the question to ‘in light of knowledge that stuff happens, how do I respond?’ Noting God sides with the victims, the suffering, etc… all by way of opening with a grandma story that I’d totally misheard for years.
    I was at a felting workshop all day. It’s about as good as it’s gonna be given that!

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  26. Nik, it’s way later where you are! You should be in bed!

    I am printing this out and calling it done for tonight. Maybe I’ll be able to tighten it up in the morning and/or as I preach it. I’m too tired to help it much more now.

    Blessings to everyone still at work.

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  27. I have a sermon. I don’t love it, because there’s too much to try to put together with the triumphal entry and the temple tantrum and the tax question. But I think I tied it together with the phrase “everyday people”–I didn’t exactly make explicit that the underlying thing tying the three episodes together has to do with our image of Jesus, but I did manage to end up with something about the image of God. and then I pulled a Jesus and ended abruptly with a quote of Micah 6.8.

    So….yeah. 1400 words. Maybe I can fix it in the morning. I usually wake up with way better ideas than whatever I already wrote, just when there’s no time to use them. 😉

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  28. Praying for those of you who are sick, and tired, and sick and tired.

    I nearly forgot that I have a (short) sermon to do tomorrow, all-ages style. I’ve been thinking about it on and off, but thinking and be ready to get up and preach are two different things! I’m planning to work with “I am who I am”…starting with, “Pretend you are God. How would you describe yourself?” Of course, none of those descriptions will be adequate…hints, facets, but not the whole of God. Then go on from there.

    My husband and I have our anniversary on Monday, a once every 4 years celebration, and we’re going away overnight; I’ve had far more fun thinking about sitting on the beach, even for a morning, than inking about a sermon!

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  29. I should really fix my sermon from last night, as it was definitely a dog. But I don’t think I have it in me to look at it again. Since it’s partly about humility, I guess it’s at least a good lesson for me. Blessings on everyone’s preaching today!

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