“I lift my eyes to the hills; from where will my help come?”

–Psalm 121

I had this bright idea that I would preach the Psalms of the Revised Common Lectionary as a series for Lent. So I’m trying to figure out what to say about Psalm 121, which I love. Other RCL texts (Nicodemus, the call of Abraham, and more!) and a discussion of them, are at this post. And a discussion of the Narrative Lectionary selection of Luke 13 is at this post.

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“The Lord is your shade at your right hand.” Psalm 121:5   Photo by Monica Smith 2017

What are you thinking and pondering this day, fellow preachers? Let’s share ideas and questions and struggles. Let’s share children’s time plans and creative Lent worship elements. And let’s hold each other in prayer as we prepare.


Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as stated supply pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Luling, TX. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.


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39 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Hills Edition

  1. Psalm 121 is also my favourite Psalm, but i am preaching on the passage from John. i have extended it to include John 2:23-3:21 . Something i read this week, in Wilderness Wanderings p 23-4, talked of ways we think of love.
    “for-who-you-are” kind of love and
    “in-spite-of” kind of love .
    i would add “becasue-of-what-you-do” kind of love.
    i am wondering what it means for God to love us “for-who-you-are”, not becasue we are good, or despite our faults and failures.

    the other thought that has been mulling around my mind is what do we talk with God about in the middle of the night, when we are alone, what questions do we bring?

    Roddy Hamilton has written a beautiful poem “a story of love” , based on John 3 reading. i have put some pictures to it and this will be a time of reflection. so with the Lent DVD from our denomination and the reflection, a short sermon again. which is good, as it is 9.00 pm Saturday and i am about to write.

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    1. Pearl, part of my sermon will be about those middle of the night conversations. Sometimes the hard questions come easier in the night as it allows a level of vulnerability. We are reading the Psalm and I may do something with that for the Children’s time since it is a Psalm of Assent.

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  2. Calling it done. Very short.
    a monologue from Nicodemus, not written by me.
    A few words from me, Questions of Life and Love
    then a wonderful poem by Roddy Hamilton

    The kettle has just boiled, help yourself to coffee or a tea – lots of options to choose from, and apple and cinnamon hot cross buns fresh from the bakery today.

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  3. I am with “Nick at Night” this week. I am musing about how hard and uncomfortable is was for Nic to make those first steps to ask Jesus. Hopefully that will lead into a little more interactive participation as I ask the congregation to name (in general terms) where they can begin meeting them where they are (as Jesus did with Nic…questions/doubts/all)…and invite them to “Come and See”. The come and see part comes from earlier in John with the call of the disciples. I am anticipating some (or alot) of silence and then using that silence as way to say…were you uncomfortable with that…I wonder if that what people feel like who see our new building addition almost done…they are curious but afraid to come see us and ask their questions.

    Children’s time: After Pearl’s comment above I am toying with the idea of using Psalm 121 (which we will be reading) with the kids. It’s early on Saturday…I’ve got time…right???? 🙂

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  4. I’m in Sylvania OH preparing to lecture today and preach tomorrow including at what my body will know to be 6 am because of time zones and change. My lecture is on decentering whiteness, patriarchy and heteronormativity and the first lesson is…Abraham. Here’s my beginning: As a joke or perhaps as a challenge, you have invited me on a day in which the lectionary begins the story of Avram who will become Avraham, a story in which he becomes the patriarch without peer, with patriarchy portrayed as God’s gift and blessing.
    I’m using “leaving his father’s house” as a metaphor leaving stuff behind, like patriarchy.

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  5. I am working on a five part Lenten series that explores the practices from the BCP Ash Wed service invitation to “observe a Holy Lent” by prayer, self-examination, repentance, reading scripture, and fasting. Last week I focused on prayer and this week I’m focusing on self-examination through the lens of Nicodemus and his struggle to live a faith out in the open, preferring to hide in the comfort and security of the known, the darkness. I am looking at the process of this church engaging in some much needed self-examination in order to develop discipleship – as in moving from an insular position to an exterior focus.

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    1. Self-examination is what our Lenten Bible Study on forgiveness is focusing on this week, too! The person who is leading this week (not me! Yippee!) is going to lead us in an Ignatian-style examen. I think self-examination as a community is a great place to go, too. Hope it goes well.

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  6. I’ve got a draft for tonight’s sermon and one for the sermon i’m preaching Tuesday at the NEXT Church conference. I’m feeling particularly, and unusually anxious about it all. (I’m sure it will be fine. And all will be well. yada yada yada).
    I’m with Luke 13 this week. My connection between the two sections of the text is that in the first, there are illustrations of bad things that happen to people and Jesus tells people to be good fig trees, bearing fruit in the world. In the second part, Jesus himself faces the “bad things” that will happen to him, in the form of Herod the fox, and he doesn’t respond in fear. He shows us how to keep on, despite real threat, bearing good fruit in the world.
    Also, after he calls Herod a “fox”, Jesus describes himself not as a bear, or a shark, or behemoth–things that could kill foxes–but as a hen. Hens are prey to foxes, not predator. Even God is vulnerable.

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  7. We’re doing the Stations of the Cross for Lent basing the weeks on Adam Walker Cleaveland’s Illustrated children’s ministry coloring pages , so I have condemned/denied. As of yesterday at 1:00 (when my kids got dropped off after a minimum day), I have a 2/3 of a monologue from the perspective of the slave girl who is the first to question Peter in the Matthew account hand written in my journal. I will finish it and then decide whether I go with it or whether I use it as inspiration for a more traditional sermon. I have written brief monologues for one-off services, usually for other people to read, but have not tried a full narrative sermon.

    Meanwhile I got a call last night while my daughter and I were hawking girl scout cookies outside the grocery store from my uncle and brother who were driving 15 hours to my parents’ house, staying the night with my uncle 40 minutes away, and will be stopping here for breakfast this morning. So I’m seeing what I can do before the house awakens and they arrive. Also need to shop for an create two egg casseroles for a fundraising breakfast before worship tomorrow. On time change Sunday.

    Also have to figure out if I will tackle condemned/denied in the time with children, or do something entirely different. Ideas are welcome. We have a a handful of 5-and-unders and a handful of elementary-age kids.

    Contemplating whether I can work Psalm 121 in to my monologue, but will probably need to let it go.

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    1. I’ve done a narrative for a full-length sermon before, and it has been fine. I wouldn’t want to do it every week, but sometimes it just fits better than anything else, and can convey insights a traditional sermon can’t.

      Fundraising breakfasts should be outlawed on time-change Sunday 😦

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  8. Got the full draft. Here’s the meat:
    In these stories about Abraham and Lot, the psalmist and her God, Jesus, Nicodemus, and the Mother of All from whom we must be born again, I see the God of my ancestors, the God of my faith, the God of my experience and the God of Jesus, the Son of Woman. I find her in these texts when I sit with the characters on the margins, those who have been cut out of the lectionary, and those whose names have been erased from the scriptures.
    The lectionary has cut our first lesson off before Sarai can be named, perhaps because in the very next verse, Avram takes Sarai and Lot along with his possessions, as though they too were also possessions along with the “goods” he acquired in Haran. Or maybe the verse is excluded because it spells out—more clearly in Hebrew than in English—that those possessions are all the persons he has “acquired”—not people and possessions, but people as possessions. Abraham’s patriarchy is rooted and grounded in slavery, sanctified in the text and by the god of this text. Abraham’s house will become great in number, in part, because of the fecundity of his slaves, some of whom he will undoubtedly impregnate himself. Because that is how slavery works and we ought not pretend that biblical slavery was some holy beneficent enterprise.
    So then, is this story useful for anything other than asserting a divine claim for patriarchy? Is there a living word here? Is there a blessing to be had that is not nationalistic or steeped in patriarchy? Responsible biblical interpretation has always called for more than simply attempting to imitate an ancient text in our contemporary context. For example, most ancient and contemporary readers understood that incestuous sibling marriage was something best left behind in this text. But on the other hand, the founding fathers and their slaveholding cronies wanted to hold onto the patriarchal promise of wealth to Abraham that explicitly included slaves. Most folk have since let that go, but not all. What then is left in the promise if we let go of the patriarchy, androcentrism, misogyny, and heterosexism in the story, and the whiteness that is so often spackled onto it? A paradigm for leaving behind the things we need to let go…
    The house of Abraham’s father represents all of the social and sexual dysfunction that would keep Abraham and his parents and partners and their kith and kin, descendants and dependents from living and loving freely and fully…
    Sarah too is a product of patriarchy and women can and do subjugate other women and sometimes men under patriarchy’s dominion. Sarah employs the lessons she learned in her father’s house against Hagar and, to some degree, against Abraham…
    In our lesson, God does not call Abraham to leave the house of his father until he is seventy-five and Sarah is sixty-five. In our world, some folk spend their entire lifetimes trying to figure out how to leave the hopes and hurts, dreams and schemes of our past behind so we can live into who we are called to be…

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    1. Thank you, Wil. So many things to ponder, but the image of whiteness being “spackled” on to the story is particularly evocative. I’m wondering if we have to see clearly what it is that we need to leave behind, before we are able to do so. (That may be another sermon entirely, but now you’ve got me thinking!)

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  9. I’m preaching on Nicodemus, raising up the courage and faith he shows just by showing up to see Jesus and ask questions.

    I like this section of the sermon so far: “Faith and doubt are good partners. Faith without any questioning is blind faith, and it quickly becomes either stale or dangerous. Doubt on its own is simply a life of cynicism. But together, faith and doubt are the tools we need to do the work of growing in faith. With these two tools, you can always approach scripture with equal amounts of reverence and curiosity.”

    Now I need to finish the rest and enjoy the day.

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  10. I just watched Collateral Beauty last night (beautiful movie, particularly on dealing with grief) and one line stood out at the end….we get to start over again except I heard it as We GET to start over AGAIN! So I am going with John and the idea of being reborn in the Spirit. I’ve been at this church for a month and they all sit on one side of aisle…I’ve been waiting for a moment to include a spreading out as part of the sermon and this is it I think, especially because I’m really starting to hear from people upset that the place is so empty. I’m thinking of bringing in some emergent church as well. There are so many things I want to tackle in this text, but I think the Spirit and the needs of the congregation are leading me in this direction.

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    1. They all literally sit on one side of the aisle? I’ve served a church like that, too, because it made it seem less empty. I like “we get to start over again,” too.

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      1. Yep literally on the side of the pulpit. The previous pastor asked them to do it because it made them feel like they were preaching to a less empty sanctuary but I think it makes the whole sanctuary seem more empty. Plus if we ever do have visitors…what are they going to think? 😀

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  11. I’m working with wilderness as theme for Lent. Tomorrow:wandering in wilderness, considering staying where we’re comfortable and warm (cold here tomorrow for a change) instead of following God’s call into the unknown, uncertain dark.
    The communion bread is baked.

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  12. I plan on using Ps. 121 early and after it is read, I have a visual “Call to prayer” using the words of the psalm as prompts for the images I’ve chosen. So before it is read, I’m going to teach children a few motions to go with some of the words (Beginning and end) and explain there are different ways to ‘hear’ and learn God’s story with people. Something like that. So when all is done, we will have motions, words, and pictures. Then the Nic scripture and drama of it too. Fun times! I’m listening to Christian Century commentator and showing a clip of Mary Poppins jumping into the chalk picture. (Song really sticks with you!) and at the end, showing Broderick Greer’s video that came up on my Twitter feed. Tying it all together – HOPEFULLY. I’ll try to paste in the link. Great video.
    words

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  13. How are y’all doing?

    I’ve got two major sections finished. Bad news: they may be two separate sermons. I think I’m going to keep them anyway, and now I just have to figure out how to tie them together.

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