This is one of those weeks when I’d rather be preaching on the text from the Narrative Lectionary than any of the four offered in the RCL. (sigh). The story of Abraham looking up at the stars in wonder of God’s abundance and grace is far more hopeful than the laments of Jeremiah or the peculiar story Jesus tells of the unjust steward who saves his own behind and gets accolades from Jesus for being savvy. Alas, I am preaching from the RCL and so I am wrestling with these challenging texts. I think I am going to talk about the effort when one tries one’s hardest to fix something but is focused primarily on saving one’s self and the transformational change that occurs when one is able to go deeper and focus on God and God’s desires, which therefore  pushes one beyond simply self motivated actions into those that can save us all. Or something like that.

What about you? What text are you wrestling with? Or, is your sermon done or, lucky you, you get this week off from preaching? Pull up a chair and grab a mug, we’re here all day to support one another wherever we are and share ideas to inspire each other.

 

The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving a church in Dearborn, MI, a  blogger and member of the RevGals since 2006.

65 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Stars and Stewards

  1. I like your direction, Terri! I can think of examples where that switch to focusing on God’s desires felt like a breath of fresh air…and times when that shift didn’t happen, and things felt stale and stuck despite some hard work.

    My husband offered to preach for me this week, and I am beyond grateful. My senior pastor is on sabbatical and I’m losing steam. But in a hugely surprising turn of events, I’m writing next week’s sermon! I’ve never, ever been able to work this far ahead. I’m worried that next Saturday I’ll wonder what I was thinking…but am trying to trust that the Spirit is just giving me words when I have energy and time to write them.

    So I’m working on 1 Timothy 6, talking about how it’s easy to wander away from pursuing God and the “life that really is life”, and start pursuing other things that only seem like life. I just read “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande, about how true experts use the discipline of simple checklists rather than assuming that years of experience will be enough to keep them focused. That made me think how the Christian life has simple checklists, too–daily practices like asking “how is it with your soul?” or the Examen. As our church approaches a major anniversary, I also want to talk about how the church can’t just rely on our past experiences and expertise–we also need those kinds of “checklists” to orient our hope for the future, or we start loving things that just look like life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do hope that with your husband preaching you feel some relief and a little rest, it can be rough to take on all the leadership positions. I find that preaching takes the most out of me and when I am not the preacher on Sunday, even when I am the presider and priest for all the other parts, I am less tired at the end of the day. I like your approach for next week and trust that it is leading you in a good direction.

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  2. Here in my corner of Scotland it is a bright sunny autumn morning. I have nothing so far… chose hymns on Thursday. But that’s it. We use the NL so I’m with Abram. Stars. And faithfulness.
    I have added in the Abraham verses from Hebrews 11.
    I know I preached on Abraham and stars this time last year, and although it’s a different Genesis reading the emphasis is similar. Will anyone remember? Who knows.

    I am over tired. New meds from the doctor to manage my arthritis have left me weary and unfocused. I know it takes around 10 days for the body to adjust, so I will just have to thole it for now.

    So. I have plums from the garden to make into jam
    Sloes to make into gin
    And a ham hock and marrowfats to make into good pea soup…. trouble is I must first write a sermon before I can give in to all the good things in my kitchen!

    Will be glad to hear what others are doing with ole Abram!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you feel better and that your body and mind adjust to the meds. I am intrigued that you are going to make your own gin…interesting. And, in my experience, people rarely remember a sermon from a month ago, let alone a year ago. They might have a vague recollection if you use the same illustrations and stories, but they won’t remember the sermon per se. Heck, I don’t remember them either. lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is an annual competition in our village for sloe gin – you buy plain gin, add in the sloes, plus your own secret ingredients…. allow it to macerate for a couple of months… sweeten… strain through muslin…. and then bottle.
        I also make raspberry; rhubarb and elderberry gins too!

        Liked by 2 people

      1. the fruit of the blackthorn bush. Growing wild here and just ready now…. the location of bushes is closely guarded – it has taken me three years to track my bushes down!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Saturday evening and i realise i have two short talks , one on Psalm 133 and one on Amos, as well as the sermon on Luke to write. what was I thinking?!
    there is chocolate to share – dark chocolate with mint and milk chocolate with rum and raisin cream.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m working with Creation time. The theme this Sunday is Storm – so in a reversal of my norm, I’ve got my kids time all figured out (creating a rainstorm with body percussion) but haven’t gotten to my sermon yet. Ironically, our church building suffered flooding damage from a storm in August, and I have to talk about that anyway. I’ll try to work it in, and find a way of talking about the way the unexpected brings opportunity (and how God works through that).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do Season of Creation, too, every fall for five weeks – Sept to Oct. But, I don’t change the readings, the liturgy focuses on creation and our hymns too. We had huge flood damage from a storm a couple of years ago, I remember well the challenges of recovering from that! Sounds like you have good material to work with for your sermon and children’s time.

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  5. I’m diving in with the Luke parable. I’m supplying at a congregation and situation that makes me nervous, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that their regular pastor preaches from an outline and does not use the pulpit at the early service. I’m a manuscript preacher, so it will take some extra work to make this happen.

    Thankfully, the sermon is all I have to prepare; members of the congregation will do the children’s time and prayers and such.

    And, we have company arriving today. I have a draft but will need to steal away at some point to work on it some more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So you feel like you need to preach the same way that their pastor preaches? Or might it be okay to be yourself and preach the way you preach? Or, is this an interesting challenge for you and you’re going to work from an outline in order to grow your skills? Just wondering….regardless, the Luke text is challenging and thought provoking. I’ve read back over previous sermons I preached on this text and the approach I took, which is not where I am going this time…sigh.

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      1. As a guest preacher, I try hard to fit in with the style of the service and thus not draw undue attention to myself (anymore than I already get by being different from the usual). So for the contemporary service, I think it’s important to preach less formally. Even though my friend also uses an outline for the traditional service, he preaches from the pulpit then, and I’ll use my manuscript. I’ve preached without a manuscript before, and I believe it is a good skill to have and use; it’s just a bit out of my comfort zone and is adding to my already-heightened nerves.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a draft in which I mostly ask questions….I need to leave it for a bit and come back to it in few hours. I think I’ll go shopping. Yesterday I bought a new dish towel and five new placements and I think I’ll go to another store and look for more of the same dish towel and one more placemat so I have a set of six…lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. calling it finished. Praise and exploitation

    Spill the Beans from 3 years ago has a good story to go with the Luke reading, I may include it, but it is 600 words long, so not sure how i will go time-wise. See how i feel about it in the morning.
    The kettle just boiled, help yourself to a cuppa, and there are homemade anzac biscuits.
    I guess not many of you know what an anzac biscuit is – oats, coconut, golden syrup cookie – mine are soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside. though some people make them crunchy all the way through.
    thanks for hosting Terri

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh, yes a long story can be challenging to include….but I have done it from time to time. I love the description and ingredients in those cookies (biscuits)! I would be fond of the soft in the center and crunchy outside edges, like you make…YUM.

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      1. I hope the authors of Spill the Beans, some of whom are RevGals, don’t mind me sharing this.
        Spill the Beans is available on-line, and is currently working through the NL, but a 3 year RCL pack is available, and in my opinion worth the small cost.

        Retelling For Young People
        Izzy Gets Busy
        Izzy was a very clever elf. She could
        sometimes be quite naughty too. All her
        elf friends always set off for elf school
        with a packet of jelly beans in their bag.
        Every morning, they hung up their bags
        outside class and went to play for a while
        until the bell rang.
        As soon as they were all in class, Izzy
        pretended that she had forgotten
        something and said that she needed to
        go back out to her bag. But when she got
        outside, she stole a few jelly beans from
        the packets in her elf friends’ bags! She
        hid them until she got home, and then
        ate them all.
        Izzy’s friends sometimes wondered if
        something was wrong as they ate their
        jelly beans… but they were too lazy
        to bother counting them properly or
        working out what was going on. They
        just had a funny feeling that there should
        be more jelly beans in their packets.
        Day after day, Izzy thought of lots of
        clever excuses for why she had to go
        back to her bag in the morning, and day
        after day, she sneakily stole some jelly
        beans, and nobody worked out quite
        what was happening.
        One day when Izzy picked her up from
        school, her Dad came to meet her and
        offered to carry her bag. As he took Izzy’s
        bag, he felt the hidden jelly beans!
        When they got home, he opened Izzy’s
        bag, saw all the extra jelly beans, and said,
        “Izzy! Have you been stealing from your elf
        friends?” Izzy was caught! She had to tell
        her Dad that he was right.
        “Then I’ll have to phone your elf teacher,
        and let her decide how you can make up
        for being so naughty!”
        Oh no. Izzy knew how much trouble she
        would be in when she got to school the
        next day. But she thought up a very clever
        plan, and she got to work on it straight
        away. Oh yes, Izzy got busy!
        In the morning, all her elf friends got to
        school, hung up their bags as usual, and
        went to play before the bell rang. As quick
        as she could, Izzy dropped a little present
        with a note attached into every elf bag,
        and kept one for herself too. Then she ran
        out to play, and shouted to her friends,
        “Look what I just found in my bag! A
        present from the teacher!”
        All her elf friends came running back
        over and started searching in their
        bags. Everybody found a little present,
        with a note on it that read, “I know that
        some of your jelly beans seem to keep
        disappearing, so here is a jelly bean
        from me to cheer you up, with love, your
        teacher.”
        Just at that moment, the elf teacher
        came along. “THANK YOU!” shouted all
        the elves, waving their presents and
        notes and running to give their teacher
        a hug.
        The elf teacher soon saw what the notes
        said, and because she had already had
        the phone call from Izzy’s Dad, she
        realised that it must have been Izzy who
        put them in all the bags.
        Izzy didn’t get into trouble that morning
        at all. At lunchtime, her teacher took her
        aside. “Well,” she said, “aren’t you a very
        clever elf, trying to make me feel like
        everyone’s hero so that I wouldn’t feel
        angry with you about stealing. How I
        wish that all you little elves could use all
        your cleverness to think up ways to be
        nice and kind and helpful, instead of just
        thinking of clever ways to be naughty
        and then not get into trouble!”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Emily
        I write for Spill the Beans… it is a lectionary based resource and we are currently following the Narrative Lectionary.
        If you follow RCL the back catalogue is available at a discount…. http://www.spillbeans.org.uk
        for NL you can subscribe and get each quarter as a download.

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  8. This week is a tough week for sure. I wanted to go off lectionary and avoid these texts too. I finally chose Psalm 79. The focus is that like Israel we can bring all our thoughts to God – even the mean and nasty ones. God is tough enough to take what we throw and sometimes when we are in the midst of devastation or a life crisis we need to lament. God is there with us. When we share all of ourself – good and bad – we enter into authentic relationship with God. As I said it was a tough one. We don’t like to admit we have those ugly thoughts at times! Blessings to all who are still struggling with this week’s texts!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The sermon is an introduction of and conversation with our 11 9th grade confirmands, so that’s been prepared and rehearsed for a couple of weeks. Thanks to that serendipitous timing, I was so looking forward to 2 days away in a lakeside cottage with my mom friends of 30 years, but instead I had funerals yesterday and today –thus two homily/eulogies for people I didn’t know. Lots of conversations to pull those together. And one family is having communication problems with a relative in one state over a burial in another, so there may be a graveside service here on Monday as well.

    That would all be fine. I can do all that. What I cannot figure out how to do is to deal with my brother who has purchased a semi-automatic firearm for, he tells me, target practice and self-defense. My brother and I have always been very close — we have endured together the childhood loss of mother and brother and the miseries inflicted by 2/3 of our stepmothers — but now I feel as I have stepped into the surreal landscape of the Civil War, sister against brother, presidential candidates (which might have been merely a civil disagreement had the Republican been another one) and weapons. Today would have been our mother’s 84th birthday and I cannot help but think that she would be very sad.

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  10. I’m going with week two of Timothy, with a focus on how prayer is part of discipleship. But I just read through my Luke sermon from three years ago, and realized it could still stand, with a little tweaking of the ending and some trimming. So here it is if you’re stuck and need a few nuggets… I still like the opera singer story: “you’ll sing it ’til you get it right!”
    https://pastorsings.com/2013/09/22/its-complicated-sermon-on-luke-161-13/
    We have a swarm of yellow jackets that have made their home in the wall of our house, so my husband is on alert to kill them – a bit distracting for sermon writing! He made some amazing chili last night, and if it’s lunch time where you are, help yourself to a bowlful – but beware that it’s pretty spicy!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi, all~
    I planned to update a sustainable sermon on the Prodigal Son this week, for a few reasons. One, I had a Remicade infusion yesterday (for Rheumatoid Arthritis), and I’m trying to own up to the truth that I don’t always feel well the next day. Two, since we jumped into Year C at the halfway point after spending the previous program year doing the Narrative Lectionary, we didn’t get the Prodigal. And three, and probably most importantly, I was content to skip the shrewd manager.
    This morning our 11yo had a baseball game, so we are just getting to it at our house. I’ve been using Amy Jill Levine’s book about the parables as a resource and find it really helpful. As I mentioned over in the Facebook group, I highly recommend it to NL preachers for this Year 3, as her treatment of the Good Samaritan and the trio of parables (Lost Coin, Lost Sheep, Prodigal Son) in Luke 15 are incredibly helpful for deconstructing what many of us learned in seminary and making sure we don’t buy into ahistorical and anti-Semitic interpretations. The bottom line for her with the Prodigal Son story is not repentance and forgiveness (she’s not sure he really repented), but rather is about reconciliation and resurrection. She points out that it’s not actually the younger son who is lost; it’s the older son the father loses track of and ends up urging back into the family. We just don’t know if he succeeded in his effort. I really love that and think it will preach.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I love it when a commentator breaks down something that never settled well with me in the first place and gives me a whole new perspective on the text. I’ve been meaning to get Amy Jill Levine’s book…. I do hope you feel well enough to write and do what you need to, certainly pulling up a sustainable sermon is a good idea and fun to add some new insight into it too.

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  12. David Lose has a great commentary on the Luke passage, for those working on that. I am just sitting down to write. I have a wedding in an hour which I’m prepared for and just sitting in the office waiting for it to start. David Lose proposes an interactive idea with identifying a relationship you’d wish to strengthen this month, which I think I will use.
    http://www.davidlose.net

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I just got back from a presbytery meeting with 4 yr old in tow. My middle child has a fever, the oldest has been nursemaid and the hubs is working.
    I received an email this morning from the clerk of session saying she is resigning. She is also the church secretary and considering leaving that position as well.
    I’m scheduled to preach on the shrewd manager from Luke. I have no less than 75 5×6 notecards full of notes and quotes, but still no idea what to preach! I am tired, worn down, and whiny!
    I’m going to take a nap and try to wake up on the right side of the bed.

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  14. We have our children led service tomorrow while the pastor is preaching for a friend in another city. This is the 3rd year our “Kick-Off Sunday” has been a children led service.

    My approach this year was to have them really *Learn* the stories we are telling–using ideas from Casey FitzGerald’s website to have the kids learn the story, draw it out as a storyboard, and tell one another the stories–and not work so much on just rehearsing lines. I hope it will bear fruit. We are doing Zacchaeus, Jesus and the Children, and the Prodigal Son.

    Meanwhile, I need to put together the extemporaneous bits: Welcome & Announcements, Prayer Concerns, and the closing of the Children’s Part of the service, gathering and tying everything together. But first, I have work to do for my community college English classes. This is the first time I have taught at a community college (I have done private Liberal Arts Colleges and Public Universities and high school), and I am discovering it is true ministry in its own way. It is fulfilling and I love it, but it is hard work. –Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How lovely, children led worship! I love that approach to helping kids learn the stories, which I am sure will be formative and inform them for years to come. I can just imagine one of these kids, all grown up. having a memory of one of the stories and connecting it to their life at that moment. Which is, after all, one reason why we learn stories, so they help form and inform us.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I am home from a day at a Presbytery meeting…it was about 2 hours away from my house, and had some contentious moments, so I am glad to be home. I picked up a pizza because I couldn’t handle the thought of cooking AND writing a sermon.
    But now that I’ve eaten it, pretty sure that means I have to suck it up and actually write a sermon. heh.

    I’m on the NL so talking about Abraham…I’m not 100% sure where it’ll go, but I’m thinking about several commentaries I read this week that say that “and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” is actually kind of ambiguous–we usually read it as “the Lord reckoned it to Abram as righteousness” but it could be the other way around–that Abraham believed God’s word and trusted God to be in right relationship with him…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s an angle I’d never considered before because I almost always read from the NRSV, which says “the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”…but apparently the translators stuck in “the Lord” in order to clarify the ambiguous Hebrew. After about the third commentary I read that mentioned it, I thought maybe I should pay attention a little. lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. You know it’s going to be an interesting Sunday when I’m converting the number of seconds in a human lifetime (waaaay less, by the way, than the number of stars in the observable universe). Also very interesting to be preaching on someone being promised descendants as I begin my next round of IVF tomorrow. Oh, Holy Spirit, you’re funny.

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    1. Oh goodness! My daughter has gone through several cycles of IVF, now, finally pregnant (almost 5 months). It’s stressful and leaves one feeling so yucky….praying for you in this time. And, yes, kind of hilarious timing….as these things can be.

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  17. I’m reading over the notes that my (male) colleague sent me about the service. He includes the following information: “The mic is one that wraps around the ear. On mine, the clip for the battery pack unit is broken/gone. If you don’t have a pocket, talk w/our dir. of music about trading mics with him.”

    Check it out! A male colleague who thinks through what it’s like to preach in not-a-suit! You can see why he is also my friend. 🙂

    (P.S. I now need to go iron a dress with pockets)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Well, I’ve enjoyed spending the day with all of you. It’s my bedtime here in the eastern time zone of the USA, but I’ll stop back in the morning to catch up. Blessings for those still writing and working, may the HS bring you words and stamina and may you get some sleep tonight.

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    1. Tax Farming is a good example of how the economy worked during the time of this parable. He is called the Manager of Injustice….not the Dishonest Manager, as per English BIbles.

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