Day 1 in the books. It will never look this clean again.

A couple of weeks ago as I was packing up my office in the call I was leaving a member of that church said, “Would you be willing to reuse a sermon?”

Me in my head: Oh yes! Apparently you haven’t noticed I’ve done it here!

Me out loud: If the circumstance is right.

She continued, “Well, you should preach that one you did about race as soon as you get there, so they hear it before the election.”

While flattering, it was advice I can’t take. That was a sermon that could be preached because it was built on 8 1/2 years of relationship. I need to preach one this week without even 8 1/2 days to go on.

Getting started. In a new call. On a new sermon. Sometimes it’s the hardest part.

What do you have started so far? What do you do when you can’t quite make the first words write themselves? Of course we’re here from beginning, to middle, to end, so feel free to join the party in the comments.

Here are the links to this week’s lectionaries conversations in case you need a little inspiration again.

Narrative Lectionary

Revised Common Lectionary


Stephanie Anthony is the pastor of Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, IL. She started on Thursday. Her family, still living in Hudson, WI for now, include her spouse, Phil, and her three kids, Karoline, William, and Margaret.


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30 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Getting started edition 

  1. I have a HUGE funeral today and much grief to process over this death, hoping I can maintain my composure while I lead worship and preach….but also, because of the intensity of this day I decided to write my sermon for Sunday yesterday…it’s posted here and I’m calling it “Lost” – preaching this will be hard, too, I suspect.

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    1. I think it’s a wonderful sermon, and a great example for me as I am struggling with how to even begin to address the same topic. Blessings on your afternoon as you lead your congregation through the beginnings of what sounds like a very sad time.

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    2. Terri, the Holy Spirit will be with you! And with its help you will have the strength to get through the services!

      This was something that was said to me by a dear pastor friend as I was asked to help perside at two family funerals (of whom my life surrounded–and was very close too) in the same week–along with lead worship. It’s hard, but know you are held by God, and surrounded by our prayers! And if you happen to show emotion that just shows that you are a person too, and that you care deeply. Tears are not something to be ashamed of.

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    3. Thank you so much. I managed to maintain a reasonable amount of composure even though I also had deep emotions riding just under the surface, and yes, a few tears. My hope, and the reason I strive to not lose my composure is to not make it about me, and to leave room for others to feel their grief, too. Anyway, it’s done Now I’m going home to rest, and take care of the headache I have from holding in most of the tears…. 🙂

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    4. I pray for peace for you. We lost a congregant to drug overdose a while ago; he was an occasional user and there was fentanyl in the needle. He left behind three little girls. It was a community funeral; he was a social worker and fire fighter and much loved. Took me a while to get over that one. We have to give ourselves permission to grieve and realize that these events have an impact on us too, even as we are comforting and witnessing to the people who have lost a loved one.

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  2. The church I’m serving traditionally gives Bibles to third graders on Reformation Sunday, so I am preaching on reading/becoming familiar with the Bible as something we can do thanks to the Reformation. For the first time ever, I’m not touching on the lectionary texts, which seems strange to me, but there are others I want to use to illustrate why it’s good to know something about the Bible.

    Probably I would feel fine about it, but there are a couple of troubling issues bubbling to the service, with different people aware of each one and most not aware of either, so I am preoccupied by all of that. An interesting and difficult week in church dynamics.

    And . . . Sunday is the fifth anniversary of my ordination! So maybe I’ll ponder that and look for joy underneath the politics, both church and national.

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  3. Oooh I’m first ! Bit of an odd week for me. Our church is doing a 6 week theme on “better together”, so tomorrow I’ve been given the theme “serving together”. I was given a suggested sermon outline (we’re using a bought-in programme) but although I’m keeping some of it, I found I didn’t really like it – so I decided to go with the 4 friend’s bringing a 5th person to Jesus in Mark 2, and pull some ideas/illustrations out of there. Strangely its Saturday early afternoon here and I pretty much know what I’m going to say.

    Unusually for me, rather than write a full text, I’ve done what I would do in my corporate day-job, and created a set of powerpoint slides to talk around, together with some bullet points for each one. So instead of spending the afternoon writing, I will spend it practicing out-loud, and adding to my notes. I’m hoping the result we be something warmer and more conversational than my standard sermon delivery – we will see.

    Lots of hot tea to share and some chocolate orange slices to go with it.

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  4. I am only two Sunday’s ahead of you Stephanie in my new call. 🙂

    For the third Sunday, off all lectionary, and Jeremiah’s words of a new covenant form the touchstone of the sermon. It’s really a meditation as we have communion, a litany for all saints, and lighting of candles in honor of those who have died.

    Tweaking the meditation this morning so I can attend a Christmas in October event at the downtown Civic Center today.

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  5. I am just in from a morning [and some] running a Halloween party for local kids and their families. It was great fun but FAR FAR too much work and much more than I had anticipated – even with 7 volunteers. Oh well…you live you learn!

    I have lots and lots of chocolate slab cake to share and cupcakes and biscuits with oodles of orange butter cream icing to use up…so help yourself – there are sprinkles and little fun spiders to decorate them with.

    Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints Sunday with Psalm 32 and Zacchaeus. I have no idea what to preach but I have a feeling something will pop into my brain later…I have seen some nice modern retellings and insights that I could easily use without it taking away from the exegesis.

    Prayers and Communion liturgy are written – they are pretty standard each year [I just need to check the news in the morning for the intercessions]. Kids are thinking about Saints are those who want to see Jesus – just like Zacchaeus. And who let their light shine [like our pumpkins with hearts cut out].

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  6. Reformation Sunday, sharing the immediacy of our financial deficit, and announcing a lay staff member has resigned. Change and anxiety were certainly part of what was going on in 1517. Still pondering what to preach in the midst of it 499 years later. Grateful to have spent time outside yesterday and this morning and for hot coffee as the sermon percolates.

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  7. Good morning! I had a funeral yesterday, which is my usual sermon writing day, so I managed to get some writing done earlier in the week. We’re in Narrative with the awesome widow. We also have a guest from the Boise Police dept to speak about working with domestic violence victims and human trafficking. This came about when I asked the session Jan Edmiston’s question, “what is breaking God’s heart in our neighborhood”.

    We have Trunk or Treat tonight.

    And I don’t think my desk was even clean the day I moved in. I’m like the Pigpen of church offices. Clouds of things just follow me.

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  8. Here are two pieces (one an older sermon, the other a United Church of Christ devotional) using the same idea: RE Zacchaeus: namely, that he is a compromised man in a compromised world, just like us, but even as he sins away, collecting taxes, he gets at least one thing right, and it just happens to be the one thing God wants! If you’re using this Luke text for All Saints, imagine a sermon about saints like Zacchaeus–not paragons of virtue, full of complexity, humanly flawed–of course! I found it encouraging to think of my own life this way.

    Customary-Present

    “Zacchaeus said, ‘Starting now I will give half my possessions to the poor…’” Luke 19:8
    OR
    “Zacchaeus said, ‘I already give half my possessions to the poor…’” Luke 19:8

    A Bible scholar once pointed out to me that you can translate Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus in two ways—future-present or customary-present. My eyes glazed over. Until I got the difference.

    Future-present: “From now on, I’ll care for the poor.” A corrupt tax collector turns virtuous on the spot.

    Customary-present: “I’ve always cared for the poor…” He’s more complex than we thought. In his morally dubious life he’s gotten at least this one thing right.

    The customary–present Zaccaheus is more familiar to me. More credible too. I don’t know any corrupt people who became paragons of virtue overnight. I do know lots of compromised people leading ethically-ambiguous lives in an ethically-bewildering world, able to do good, but unable to be pure.

    Like Oscar Schindler, a man not to be trusted with your money or your wife, who saved thousands of Jews from murder.

    Like Mother Teresa, a recipient of donations from groups opposed to population control in India, who returned human worth to the destitute and dying.

    Like a guy I know who designs missile guidance systems for a living and spends every other waking moment teaching men in maximum security to read.

    Like me, that time I visited a parishioner at her house, sixteen rooms on ten acres. “More house than any good Christian needs,” I sniffed judgmentally driving up the majestic driveway, only to meet seven adopted special needs kids living happily inside.

    Like most of us who can’t be pure without being proud, who’d do well to go to Jesus as we are, compromised, ambiguous, requiring mercy. If Zacchaeus is any indication, we’ll find it.

    Prayer
    Jesus, help me get at least something right. Cover me with mercy for the rest.

    AND

    https://sicutlocutusest.com/2016/10/29/zacchaeus/

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    1. Oooo I like how you worded the two differences and the idea of that struggle. It’s one I can definitely place myself in too. I know I don’t want to do the typical conversion story but I hadn’t quite figured out where to go the other way so thanks for inspiration!

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  9. We acted out Zacchaeus last week in a sermon called Out on a Limb and reflected on where we are called to be and who we are called to accompany in this grumbling season..
    This week, we are standing at the watch-post with Habbakuk and the water protectors at Standing Rock. Hoping to “write the vision” by tomorrow morning!

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  10. This is my last week of being one week behind everyone else using the NL. (I’m skipping Elijah and going straight to Jonah right before Election Day.) My sermon is almost done; I’m just needing to wind it up. Working on it yesterday meant a trip down a rabbit trail relating to the monarchy of England and Great Britain. Now I know a little more than I did about that, but it’s only tangentially relevant to the story of David’s house. Ultimately David’s dynasty is less interesting to me right now than the notion of God not wanting to be pinned down in a house (temple), and the difficulties it caused when Solomon pinned God down anyway, and then successive regimes disallowed worship of God anywhere other than the Jerusalem temple–how can you call on your God from exile when God is as homeless as you are, and you don’t know where God’s at right now?

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  11. Reformation Sunday, Hallowe’en around the corner, post Anniversary/Reunion Sunday, Zaccheus and great concerns, yes even here in Canada, about the upcoming U.S. election … eek!!! What shall I say tomorrow? As I ponder, there is a toasted tomato/bacon/avocado sandwich waiting to be shared.

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  12. If you read this week’s devotion, you already know my spiel for Reformation Sunday! Using parts of that for the sermon, focusing on the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit, preaching toward the song of the day which is “Cantad al Senor” (Oh sing to the Lord, oh sing God a new song!) About halfway there with the writing but need to get off the church nerdy soapbox and onto the relevant for life today topics.

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  13. I stopped by earlier to read, but didn’t dare get distracted (any more than I was). So now I have a sermon and I really don’t think much of it. I don’t know what I was thinking when I looked at the texts for this week. I knew I couldn’t use Zac because they heard a great exegetical sermon, that they worked on as a congregation over the summer. So that has left me with Isaiah, Psalm 119, and 2 Thess. whew. I’ve managed to give them a central theme but its all just a bunch of words. A very DRY sermon. Maybe they will appreciate it. We’ve had a few weeks of sermons that reminded us of how much work is still required of us to work on justice.
    Maybe this is just a “break”. I hope they stay awake.
    I’m also hoping it’s what someone needs to hear. I’ve long ago found that my “worst” sermons are the ones someone(s) mentions as being “spot on”. so
    HOLY SPIRIT, do your thing!!!

    Blessings to all you having funerals this week. I had a few months like that and am hoping the break continues.

    BTW – I read a tip for children message that led in to Jesus going to Zac’s house by talking about trick or treat house visits. Interesting. Since I just saw a naked guy walking in the park – I got thinking about a “trick or treat”….surprise? of a different kind. Not sure I can turn this into a children’s message. The naked guy gets left out!

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