Our family has completed our move to a new home (more or less), and we are now in the process of unpacking. I remember in seminary, professors would encourage us to “unpack” the text, or “unpack” an ill-thought-out statement. I didn’t really know what they meant, but I listened carefully as people “unpacked.”

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Used with permission. Photo by rgbstock user ba1969

As I’m removing surprises from boxes that I thought I had clearly labeled; as I’m hunting through boxes to find that one, suddenly crucial item (yesterday, the brownie recipe); as I’m disquieted when I can’t find something, I think I am beginning to understand unpacking better.

Preachers, we are unpack-ers. Are you unpacking the Revised Common Lectionary texts (discussion here), or the Narrative Lectionary (series discussions links here), or a sermon series, or something else entirely?

Let’s help each other unpack today. Our new town has farmers’ markets, so I have fresh peaches and tomatoes to share.

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Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as a pulpit supply preacher in South Central Texas. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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46 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Unpacking Edition

  1. week 2 of Galatians, though when i looked at the texts i wished i hadn’t planned on a series on Galatians. the gospel reading is one of my favourites, did a short first person on this once, pre-seminary. Minister and i did two short first person stories each.
    and the reading from 1 Kings is also a favourite – abuse of power etc.
    The phrase that stood out for me this week is from the Galatians reading ” I refuse to reject the grace of God.”
    not sure what i ma doing with it, but hey, it is 14 hours before the first service.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. morning Patti – or good afternoon in your zone!!

      the very thought that anyone can refuse the grace of God makes me feel “ugh” – will look forward to discovering what you do with that!
      As I am currently working through 2 Corinthians – and finding it to seriously challenging- I hear you!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ha! I almost always have “sermon series regret” a few weeks into it! Blessings on Galatians…I’m with Julie, in that I reject the idea that we could reject the grace of God. Not sure that’s helpful for your sermon, though!

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  2. Morning All – today is the first wet day in about three weeks – the ground seriously needs it, and it is light persistent precipitation which will really be good for the land – but oh how I miss the sunshine of recent weeks!

    I am doing a repeat of last week’s sermon – for a different audience. In our tradition we do a peer review – every five years visiting a neighbouring charge, meeting with minister, session and finally congregation. It is called the “Local Review” so this is the final part, the charge is a two way link between a small town and a rural community. It is my task to encourage and celebrate with them so last week’s sermon “Hope – we are in this together” seems pretty apposite.

    Today all I need is to write an introduction and remove the references to my own church, with a few tweaks for their locale. It will be very different for me to do two services back to – haven’t done that since I left my previous charge more than five years ago!

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  3. Good morning – lots of berries for cereal here!

    I am preaching on Galatians and Luke, about seeing God in people in whom we do not expect to see God. Merton — everyone’s face is shining like the sun.

    Going to an early evening wedding tonight and off to DC right after church tomorrow for three days of suicide prevention advocacy. Way too many large groups of people for this extroverted introvert, so I skipped a Cavs-watching party last night. Just as well, perhaps.

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    1. Thanks for the berries–yum!

      You have a big week planned (I see that it’s only the first half of the week, but it would take me the second half to recover!).

      Where is the Merton quote from?

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      1. I’m not sure which book. It’s from his recounting of a moment at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, wishing that everyone out on the street could see themselves as God sees them.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Attempting to unpack Paul’s use of the christological hymn in Philippians 2 and its consequences for the quality of our life in community. Which feels like a good idea – but actually pulling the words together feels like wading through treacle at the moment. Lots of hot tea to share ! I also feel i ought to put in a footballing metaphor somehow as its Euro2016, but to be honest i can’t think of one…

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    1. I love the Philippians 2 hymn, but I suspect I would find it hard to preach, as I do many of my favorites. I give you permission to skip the sports metaphor! Blessings.

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  5. Hi everyone! I’m up early but will be gone for a good part of the day at a memorial service out of town. While I’m gone, do what you’re so good at–support one another, share ideas, and bring some snacks! I’ll catch up this afternoon.

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  6. Monica, thank you for hosting, even with the move!

    I am leaving the house in about 20 minutes and will be gone until late tonight: ordination downtown at the cathedral, (that’s the morning and part of the afternoon), followed by a big wedding back at the church and the wedding reception, for a parishioner family that i know well. Tomorrow, thankfully, only one service and our newly ordained (former) seminarian will be the celebrant with me preaching. That will be followed by the annual church picnic. Busy weekend. So, my sermon for tomorrow (not the wedding today) is posted I’m calling it You reap what you sow.

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  7. Not sure i unpacked my heading very well, but it is finished, and only 10 past 11 pm on Saturday night. now to find a box as a prop. I refuse to reject the grace of God.
    children’s story, which i am now calling the ‘short talk’ is about the symbols on my red stoles. i am still wearing red from Pentecost until the end of June, and last week someone asked me what the pictures on them meant. i have taken photos so the different symbols will be on the screen. i have 2 red stoles, one from the induction at my first placement, and one that my husband bought back for me from Israel.
    kettle is almost boiling, help yourself to a cuppa.

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    1. Patty – greetings fellow Galatians series person!
      I’m just settling down now to the sermon, after having been conducting an interment of ashes earlier. I like your ‘refusing to reject the grace of God’ approach. I think I’m also going down a ‘grace’ road – living in and into the grace of God…what frightens us about grace – that we don’t get to control it/ we don’t get to determine who can or can’t receive it…thinking about our attempts to ‘tame’ God.
      We shall see.
      Not much here in the way of food, as I’m fasting today [detox], but do have some gorgeous berry tea – help yourself

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    2. for the Galatians people, i have added a paragraph – cooking porridge [oats] not the best time for a new thought, but it happens.

      When we accept the gift of God’s grace our lives change. As Paul writes: it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. What does this life look like?
      Peace
      Forgiveness
      Freedom
      New life
      [ paper in box]

      I wish i had thought of the Grace box earlier, then i could have had paper tags, instead of strips of ordinary paper, and some symbols inside, instead of strips of ordinary paper. but God’s gift of grace is for me too.
      actually writing this, maybe i will some symbols as well as the strips of paper – candle, cross, origami crane????
      time to shower – 45 minutes to first service.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi there! I don’t join in too often here but am back in the RCL as I am on leave and supplying all over the place. I’m thinking about the women of Luke as examples of stewardship: providing for Jesus out of their means and out of their gratefulness for healing of all kinds. Thanks for that line from Galatians, too, because that will fit! “I refuse to reject the grace of God,” because that, of course, is what the Pharisee was doing. Blessings to you all as we unpack this text today.

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    1. Similar to the theme I’m pulling from Luke – this is a great stewardship text! Even the extravagance of the woman who pours the ointment on Jesus’ feet is faithful extravagance, for the sake of others, not selfish extravagance.Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Welcome! You don’t have to be a RCL preacher to join in the party–we welcome preachers of any kind! I like the connection you’re making between the gospel and Galatians.

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  9. I’ve always found it hard to work on a sermon in advance, if there’s another sermon that needs to be preached first. For example, I can’t fully immerse myself in Sunday’s texts when there’s a funeral or a wedding on Saturday, until after the event is done. Today’s problem is that I preach tomorrow morning, then leave church immediately to preside at a wedding at 1pm offsite. There’s definitely no time to write the wedding sermon after worship! But I’m finding myself switching back and forth between the two sermons today not quite doing either one justice. Hoping to find a little more focus as the day goes on…

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    1. Ack – hard to have a split-focus. I get a little of where you’re coming from: I had an interment of ashes earlier today, and had been faffing between sermon and ashes service in a bit of a discombobulated way. Think I’m getting there now with the sermon, but ugh. Hope you find your sermon mojo! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You really are squeezed tomorrow! It’s hard to write two at once, and also hard to write them out of order. My sympathies…

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  10. I am cooking “previously blessed food ” aka leftovers for supper; you’re welcome to grab a bowl. Preaching on the 1Kings text; when are we called to call out the Jezebels in our culture? In Florida, where corruption is rampant, this could be a very tough sell! And I haven’t yet really settled on examples from daily life that I can use. So everything is bubbling, but it ain’t neither sermon nor supper yet.

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  11. We’ve got a little ice cream you’re welcome to share. It’s 94F/34c here, so…

    I’ve been doing a series on mission, hoping to help the church find some focus. Tomorrow will be “Mission: Justice” and I’m pairing the OT reading in 1 Kings (Ahab, Jezebel, Naboth, and Elijah) with the alternate OT reading in 2nd Samuel (Nathan and David, on the heels of David, Bathsheeba, and Uriah). Yeah, I know I’m not supposed to do that.

    I’m going to talk a little about how a church might be called to fight oppressive systems and those who use power to harm the powerless.

    After worship, I’m running across town to pick up one of my readers for the afternoon service, then way out west to set that up, so the sermon tomorrow morning will not be a long one.

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    1. I’ll take some ice cream, with a side of ordination celebrations! Happy sermon-writing in the midst of all your prep for the exciting afternoon festivities.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ll take ice cream, as it is just about that temperature here (car said 93 earlier; we haven’t put up our official back yard thermometer yet).

      Happy, happy, happy ordination day to you! (And I really want to hear your OT sermon!)

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  12. I cannot believe that I have a sermon written before dark on a Saturday. But there it is. https://pastorsings.com/2016/06/11/extravagant-hospitality-sermon-on-luke-736-83/ I’m tying up the third week of the RCL Luke 7 series, and the focus has been on hospitality, since that is the first recommendation from our consulting team: build a brand identity around hospitality. We aren’t talking punch and cookies here, folks. But even though that’s the title and theme I picked weeks ago, the actual sermon goes a different direction, and ended up more about being judgmental than being hospitable. Oh well.
    The parsley and mint were getting ready to bolt, so I cut it all back and have way more than I need for a batch of tabouleh. Help yourself to some herbs. There is thyme, too. My colleague who was to provide emergency pastoral care while I go on study leave and vacation for the next two weeks had a heart attack on Thursday, so I am covering for him instead. But pulpit supply is already arranged, so I will at least have two Sundays off from preaching/leading/smiling/nodding. I’m going to go sit on my deck now and enjoy the sunset. Peace to all!

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    1. Enjoy the sunset! Well done on the sermon! I think “against judgment” and “hospitality” go together quite well…you’re not too far off.

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  13. Wedding sermon is almost done. Then it will be on to finish a sermon on Luke 7-8, talking about how Jesus’ ministry was made possible by women, and they even taught him things (like foot washing). Women have something to contribute and do not deserve to be cast aside, as they have been in recent news headlines. Instead, they are role models for us to emulate. Can we be as faithful as the women in the Gospel were with their possessions? How can we teach and inspire those around us?

    Something like that. I’ll fill in the blanks once I finish the sermon for the Sunday afternoon wedding.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I too am doing a Galatians series (what’s with us?) to prepare “us” for the conflict likely coming at Annual Conference in 3 weeks. Our worship team asked me if these texts wouldn’t be a good way to introduce both the topics coming at conference AND the general topic of conflict. Pretty astute group!

    So I’m done, but half of it is our queries so probably not posting it. I was surprised to find as much help in the old Interpretation series as some of the newer commentaries, (Feasting, People’s NT, and on-line) Guess that’s cos Cousar wrote it.

    Best to all, venison Italian sausages on the grill now…hubby cooking.

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  15. Home, about 12 hours after I left this morning. But the seminarian is ordained and the couple is married and I prayed at the wedding reception and had some food. Now, geeze, a little time to unwind, and hopefully to sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Preaching at our all-ages service tomorrow, and I think I’m going to do something with the Episcopal collect for the day which has a line I love: “that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion…” I’m toying around especially with the idea of what it means to be bold and compassionate; I think those are characteristics that even young ones can comprehend if I offer some contrasts (a timid voice versus a bold one versus shouting; holding something too tightly or not tightly enough or with just the right degree of gentleness). Obviously I still have some work to do 😉

    We have fresh peaches on the tree in the backyard and oranges on the side yard, so help yourselves! Those peaches would be very good on the ice cream…

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    1. Peaches from your own tree are way better than farmers’ market peaches! Yum. And definitely with the ice cream.

      I love your idea about truth and boldness and justice and compassion. Would love to hear how it turns out!

      Like

  17. Preachers, I’m turning in for the night. Feel free to party as late as you’d like, or come back in the morning, for some last minute tweaking. Blessings to all as you proclaim the Word.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. 10pm central and I have just finished catching up on the Bible in 90 Days readings, so now I can write a sermon about them…I’m to preach on Judges 11. For those not up on exactly what happens in every chapter of Judges (because who is?)…that’s Jephthah’s daughter. I think I have a direction, but what I don’t have is a beginning. Whatever the beginning turns out to be, I will then have to fight the temptation to explain every little thing (why he made a vow when the spirit of the lord should be enough? how animals often lived on the ground floor of houses so an animal being first out of the house would have been more normal. how the women of Israel have for generations come out with tambourines and dancing to meet their men returning from battle. That there were other options for making a payment or a substitute sacrifice. that the ritual of women is designed to save her from the fate of being forgotten. that the whole story is symbolic of all the things that are wrong in the community at the time. etc etc etc).

    The story is so horrifying–as is the rest of Judges, which people are reading tomorrow or Monday in the B90 schedule–that part of me wants to do that kind of verse-by-verse thing, and part of me wants to gloss all of that. sigh.

    I am out of ice cream, which is a great tragedy, though not on the Judges 11 scale.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I took an exegesis class on Judges in seminary. Apparently that does not mean I have anything useful to contribute to your dilemma. Hoping you came up with something preachable.

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  19. home from worship and lunch at a local cafe. worship was well received at both services, and some fascination with my stoles. lots of ad-libbing in the sermon towards the end.
    blessings for those yet to lead worship.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Printed the wedding sermon, finally. About ¾ done with the Sunday morning sermon for worship. Why is the ending always so hard? Nearly 11pm my time, have been battling allergies since Wed pm so need to get to bed soon and rest up for the long day tomorrow. Happy writing to anyone else still working!

    Liked by 1 person

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