words-matterIn 2010 I participated in a planning group with the (former) women’s ministries at the National Council of Churches, USA, that we called WordsMatter. It culminated in a weekend workshop with as wide and diverse a group of participants that we could gather: men, women, LGBTQ and hetero, white, people of color, and across the denominations of Christianity. We spent the weekend talking about the words that we use to talk about God, self, and others. Words that hurt. Words that might expand our understanding. Words of hope. Words.

Words are important. Our awareness of the words we use and their impact on others is crucial. Especially in these times as we approach the election in the USA, words are in the spotlight. For more on this regarding sermon prep for this Sunday, check out the Tuesday RCL and Narrative Lectionary posts and comments.

What words are you pondering for this weekend. What words do you hope will feed your people with hope or inspire them to action or move them to justice?

This is the Preacher Party, pull up a chair, grab a mug, I have plenty of coffee and tea to keep us going.


The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest, Rector of Christ Church and living in Dearborn, Michigan. She blogs at http://seekingauthenticvoice.blogspot.com


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43 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: WordsMatter

  1. Well, this is a first! I’m the first one here?
    I’m sitting down early, (Friday evening at 8 PST) hoping to get this thing written so I WON’T be here at 11pm on Saturday night. I have a dinner and concert with out-of-town friends on Saturday.
    But before we get to talking about what we are writing and how we are doing, I want to know if writing these darn sermons is as hard for anyone else as it is for me. I don’t mind the preaching part, (kinda like it, actually) but the writing part is painful and slow. So, I have a question for the Party: which is your least favorite part, preaching or writing?
    I’ve got Irish Coffee and, well, that’s it. See y’all later!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Some days I feel like writing a sermon is near impossible. Other days the words pour out of me. Preaching is always fine, although there are times when I know what I am saying is provocative and I am apprehensive, worried about pushback. Regardless, when it is all over, Sunday afternoon, I am exhausted. It takes a huge toll on me. That’s why Monday is my day off. I hope your sermon writing was successful.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know some people who preach without writing anything down. I know that they have thought it through and that they have 30+ years preaching, but still. I would not make any sense if I did that, my brain just does not work like that. Sure would be nice to be able too, though.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Pastor Jan, I am with you there! I hate the writing but quite enjoy the preaching. Writing the sermon is a struggle almost every week – sometimes it almost feels like a fight and at least as exhausting. I hope you got somewhere with your writing.

    It is Saturday morning here in Scotland. I have nothing ready for tomorrow. I have a double baptism (2 sisters) tomorrow so am looking forward to that. Otherwise it is a fairly blank screen – which is not a great place to be at this point but I am sure there will be inspiration of some sort during the day and company at the preachers’ party that will keep me going.

    I just bought Halloween candy and I suspect I might be dipping into it today! I should have waited a couple of weeks!
    Be back later to see the wisdom shared (and hopefully share my thoughts too)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a baptism on Sunday too as well….but no sermon to write, we have people giving testimonials for Stewardship season. I hope the writing for you goes well…it’s often easier when there’s a baptism because I mostly talk about baptism and only make reference to the readings if it makes sense too.

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  3. Morning all
    It is cold and wet and DREICH here.
    For those of you who do not reside in Scotland, dreich is a wonderful all encompassing word for dreary weather… it’s a grey, wet, cold, mizzle filled – dreich day.
    This means my arthritis is going all over and my right hand is not working properly – just what I need this writing day! moan over.

    I work with the Narrative – and so today it’s Hannah. The pain of isolation she feels; the loss; the desperation…. and of course the elation that follows when her prayers are finally answered. With all the dreadful stuff that is flying around the media right now this is just one more burden for those who are reliving painful times.
    And it is communion Sunday here, as well as still being half term holiday, so it will be a mixed up gathering – those who only come on communion, and others away with family; and I suspect no children either.
    I have decided to break the reading up – and I have also added in the first couple of verses from 1 Samuel 1 – just to explain the who and why.
    The reading will be in two parts as will the sermon – or reflection, or whatever it is. Really hoping that all these meandering thoughts turn into inspiration sometime soon.

    Food is in short supply too – all I have is some very healthy lentil soup….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry for the dreichy weather and the impact it is having on you physically, but I’m grateful to be introduced to a new word. Pronunciation? And mizzle is another goodie! Hannah is rich with possibilities, and such a tender experience shared by many women. I hope the sermon emerges in a way that satisfies.

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      1. Drench = dreek though the k sound kind of disappears at the back of your throat…
        Mizzle as it sounds… very Scottish weather misty drizzle that clings and saturates in minutes

        It’s another misty morning, and I’m about to reread what I finished yesterday. Will post it once I’m happy!

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  4. Good morning from the early dark morning of the eastern time zone in the USA. I have a hugely busy day today but I will do my best to host this party! I’ll be around until about 11am and then I have a baptismal rehearsal, a wedding, and the interment of pet ashes in our pet memorial garden, followed by attending the dinner reception for the wedding couple in the evening. Plus I have to pack to leave town for a week. And get ready for tomorrow. But, at least I only have to preach the wedding homily, tomorrow we have a stewardship testimonial, so no Sunday sermon. I planned that one well! Anyway, I’ll be around as best as I am able, but know that you all are in my thoughts and prayers as you prepare for Sunday.

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  5. I could use a LOT more coffee, thanks! We hosted five fifth graders for a birthday party last night and now I’m settling down to write on this nutty text. Yikes.

    I also have a short wedding homily for tonight to write. And a lacrosse game to attend. And out of town guests tomorrow night. Yikes again.

    I read somewhere (perhaps the infamous clergy FB page) that WE are the unjust judge, and I’m going with that. Who is crying out for justice? And how does God represent the model of the One who gives justice for the widows?

    Hoping for the Spirit’s word to all of us!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One could write an entire sermon just on the concept of “we” being the unjust judge….who am I judging? how, when, why, do I judge? How unhelpful is it when I judge….how little judging allows me to be open to others, to learn and grow, to respect the other….

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes. I have SO many…way too many…personal examples! But I am ending with how Jesus shows us that even though WE will have mercy when we’re forced to, God is endlessly merciful with us, showing us how to do justice for others.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I”m writing on Saturday and not happy about it, but it has been a full week. At least I do have today because the rest of the month the saturdays are at least half gone. I love Rachel’s dream. We are doing the Genesis wresting as a drama, then I’m having the Luke read. I have ideas, but they are only based on notes. Hate having a blank page on Saturday. Wish I played Guitar, then I’d tell the widow’s story with a modified “Alice’s Restaurant” ballad. ah well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a lot of sermons and lectures in the next 45 days so I’ve been working ahead. Sunday (here in Ft Worth) and Tuesday (Atlanta) have been done for a week or so. Decent start on the 29th. Good start on conference paper due to respondent on 1 Nov. Got title, topic and text for 6 Nov and lectures and slides ready for 4-5 Nov (Minneapolis). Which is good because I got epic food poisoning Tuesday night. Yesterday was the first day I felt good and ate well. Fortunately this week is reading week. Queasy today. Grateful for the stack of sermons, but I’ve got work to do. Here’s a piece of the meaty part of Sunday’s sermon:
    In this age of #BlackLivesMatter, people are crying out for justice to the very ones entrusted with delivering that justice just like that widow and being met with anything but justice. And just like that widow we are committed to showing up day and night until we get justice, even if it gets a little rough. The judge knew that protest over justice denied inevitably escalates. The NRSV translation that we use says “so that she may not wear me out.” That is one possible translation, but the verb hupopiazo also means slap or punch in the face and blacken an eye or two. Saint Jerome translated it as “beat me black and blue.” (Vulgate: suggillet; Peshitta: mahro,“harm”) Other bibles have “beat me down.” (ESVS) The judge knew that he could not continue to deny her justice and remain unscathed. And so, out of concern for his skin and only his skin, he ruled in her favor. Justice cannot be continually denied with no expectation of upheaval or uprising.
    Jesus and his imaginary widow make it look easy. In the space of three verses the judge gives the woman the justice she is due. It has been 2000 years since Jesus was lynched for preaching and protesting against injustice and telling folk to demand justice and not give up. We have found that it takes a bit longer than it looks like in the gospels. My ancestors were enslaved for four hundred years. They prayed and didn’t lose heart. Oh, I’m sure some did, but there were others praying to take up the slack. Black folk petitioning unjust judges in counties and states for the right to vote were just like that woman. It took longer than in that parable but they prayed and didn’t lose heart.
    Our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers petitioned the church and the state for the right to marry even though both had long histories of discriminating against them. Some of them were prayerful people who prayed and didn’t lose heart. Unjust judges and county clerks are granting marriage licenses they withheld for too long and our church is not alone in saying all of the sacraments are for all of God’s children. When I start to lose heart I look at all praying people have accomplished and I don’t lose heart.

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  8. We recognize (with Purple) Domestic Violence awareness next Sunday, but I can’t help but use this opportunity to address several injustices for which we pray. But as has been noted on Twitter and elsewhere, why is it now that white women are ‘attached’ that people are outraged. So I’m using that because I have a congregation of majority white women, as a lead in to mention some other places of injustice. I just hope i’m coming out with enough GOOD news…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have Hannah, and the beginning of a season in which the theme is “God Provides.” I haven’t decided the best way to approach the text yet, because I don’t want to accidentally end up saying “If we pray hard enough, God gives us what we ask for.”

    In the meantime, I have tea. Many flavors. Also peppermint hot chocolate, because why not? I’m refusing to allow myself to be boxed in by commercial seasons. 😉

    If anyone has lunch…or dinner, since now it’s 3pm….just lying around, please send it over. I seem to have forgotten how to actually have food in the fridge.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, food would be good! Me, too. sigh. I like the idea of a season whose theme is “God Provides” …how long will that season be? What else, or how else, will you develop that theme? I’m drinking Earl Gray tea with a splash of 1% milk and eating a handful of peanut M&M’s in an effort to recover from this already busy day…before I pack for my trip to Chicago and then go to the dinner reception for the wedding. But, regarding Hannah and God Provides….she’s pretty steadfast in her faith and committed to the practices that maintain it, including the giving of her son to God, the very son she longed for. That son became quite a character in the story of God and God’s people, a man who, one might say, changed everything. So God provides us with what we need and from that we give back to God and in so doing it is possible that everything might change, be transformed in God’s love?…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This season is 6 weeks (now through Christ the King). There are a few other things going on to develop the theme, thankfully, not just the sermons. 😉 A few weeks ago at a dinner, 12 chairs had envelopes underneath that contained cash and instructions to use the money to “pay it forward” in some way outside of the church or your own family, by a certain date. Two people per week are then to report during worship how they paid it forward…the idea being, from Hannah’s story, that the appropriate response to God’s gift is to give it back/away.

        I also have several people (hopefully one a week, but it’s looking like some weeks may have more than one) giving testimonies about God providing in their lives. It was a pretty broad assignment and each person has just 3 minutes, but I think it will be awesome. They will come just at the end of the service, right before the season’s theme hymn “For Your Generous Providing”…and then the benediction. So we leave with those personal stories of God working in people’s lives.

        I suspect that between the Pay It Forward stories and the testimonies, it won’t matter much what I say. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, great ideas. We did that “pay if forward” idea a few years…only we ended up giving everyone money in increments from $20 to $100 (lots more got $20, only a few got $100), with the same instructions. It was met with mixed reviews, but that says more about the people here. I really hope your people find it inspirational!

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  10. Like Rev. Wil and others, I’m also preaching on the timeline of oppression, naming struggles in the Black, female, LGBTQ, mentally ill, and homeless populations. These timelines are long, and and people have been praying all this time,and yet there is still oppression. Throughout, I’m reminding the congregation that this text is about prayer, but that this widow’s “prayer” was her fist on his door, not on her knees. At the end, I’m asking them to write out a Prayer Request, (we write out our prayer requests, and then Pastor and I read them aloud, so we can all share in the praying) naming how they will pray – work, act, shout, legislate – for change. It’ll be a short sermon, as we also have a guest speaker from Family Promise (housing for whole families), and their work will be another example of prayer. The sermon isn’t done, but it’s in progress.

    Hoping you all have words pouring forth, and some fun in your day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s what I came up with. https://www.dropbox.com/s/vfjo5p0bwtruahw/10-16-16.docx?dl=0

      The first half was done very tongue in cheek, and the congregation totally played along. Very fun. Then I preached through the oppressed groups section, and handed the mic off to a speaker from Family Promise, a group that keeps homeless families sheltered together at churches. His words FIT PERFECTLY! Such a Holy Spirit moment! He started with hard stats, and then told a story, then did his “ask.” I mean, wow! Like God scripted it…well…yeah. 🙂

      It was a good Sunday. 🙂

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  11. I am trying to remember a sermon illustration story. Help. It involves some person waiting for God to visit his humble house. A poor person comes instead whom he reluctantly takes care of and then the next day he is blessed. Any clues?

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  12. I am one day back from vacation, and so NOT in the frame of mind to be writing a sermon. I’ve managed to procrastinate most of the day away, and now I need to get going. I am intrigued by the idea of seeing ourselves as the unjust judge and God as the woman who persistently tries to reach us. I may follow that trail for a while and see where it leads. In the meantime, I have chips and salsa to share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel for you! I try to never come back from vacation and have to preach the next day. I could not do it. Still, you have an intriguing idea, so perhaps that will offer enough inspiration to get this one done! And, of course, chips will help.

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  13. Just checking in here…midway thru sermon. Focus is Luke 18:1-8… sermon title is Blushing Christians… I am talking about the uses of embarrassment…The unjust judge, in some translations, grants justice because he is embarrassed…(worn down) — his primary motivator is not out of respect for people or fear of God… If someone can actually feel embarrassed for a mistake or for the discrepancy betw. what they say and what they do, then there is actual hope for that person (including the unjust judges of the world who can still feel remorse or embarrassment from the positions of power). God uses our embarrassment to help us to do better. Also distinguishing btw. embarrassment and shame. I have no use for shame, but plenty of use for embarrassment.

    Kids are in bed…sitter has gone home…and I am still sermonizing…

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  14. I have had a crazy day unloading pumpkins for our pumpkin patch, getting the money for the cash box, counseling with a couple, then returning home to care for my own three bundles of energy! The little man didn’t want to go to sleep without another human with him, so i have sat here two hours and tried to type out my sermon while he falls asleep.
    A draft is up http://randomrevhd.blogspot.com/2016/10/just-keep-praying.html if any one is up to reading it. I think it jumps around too much, but I’ll update it with new eyes tomorrow.
    Prayers to all still pounding away!
    (now if I can sneak out of here without waking him up!)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am thinking I might try to do something with this story of Hannah and Eli (and the other more peripheral characters) about Assumptions….Eli makes assumptions about Hannah–and so had everyone else in her life, in different ways. But she stands up and refuses to play that role…and that was a dangerous choice, in many ways. He could have responded in a variety of ways that were much less a blessing than he did. But this is one of the things God provides–and Hannah’s song is about it, in many ways: a questioning of assumptions, a reversal of what we thought…and many people fear having their assumptions questioned because of the exact thing that Hannah says about “My mouth derides my enemies”–we assume that justice and grace are a zero sum game and we don’t want to let go of what we perceive to be “ours”, and God provides us a challenge to that assumption.

    Maybe. Or maybe not. I haven’t got a beginning, so thus far all I have are jumbled thoughts. 🙂

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      1. In the children’s sermon, I used the Cubs and the 3rd-string catcher as pinch hitter who hit a grand slam home run as an example of unexpected people doing awesome things, and how Hannah (who was worthless, basically, in her family/society) prayed for God to do something amazing, and God then did something amazing *through her*. Gave us a chance to gloat about the game for a bit too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately I HAD to go to bed and only watched the Cubs game until about the 5th inning. sigh. Now to go find out what happened. After two services today I am driving into Chicago and will watch tonight’s game at my daughters house….oh, and YES – love love the idea of assumptions and Hannah refusing to take on that role.

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