It’s puzzle Sunday! The puzzle is the Trinity! How to explain? How to avoid explaining? How to avoid a wide variety of heresies? What in the world to tell the children?

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Fun puzzle image from rgbstock.com user TACLUDA

If you’re tackling the Genesis text from the Revised Common Lectionary, the Tuesday RCL post has some helpful thoughts and direction.

Let us know what you’re planning and/or how the Spirit is disrupting your plans! Trinity Sunday or something else, children’s time, vacation, sabbatical, etc. Maybe your idea can join with someone else’s to make something even better!

We have a variety of stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums,and apricots) in our basket to share. We’re also getting ready for a week of church camp, so there is supply-gathering and laundry on the agenda for today.


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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43 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Puzzle Edition

  1. Yes to all of your comments/questions in the opening paragraph! This week is complicated, if a preacher is to remain on the topic of Trinity.

    For the kids, I am seriously considering using this idea: http://www.catholicconspiracy.com/actsoftheapostasy/2017/05/16/pope-francis-uses-fidget-spinner-to-explain-god-during-homily/ What do you think?

    For the adults, I’m seriously considering resurrecting a message that I used to do every week when I worked at church camp. I’d give all worshippers a piece of paper and a marker, and ask them to draw a picture of God. Then, after a minute or two, I’d ask for anyone who wanted to share their drawing with the group and explain why they drew that particular thing. Then, I’d refer to a Bible passage to affirm their interpretation of who God is. I’m just not sure how it would go over with my folks on a Sunday morning, but it’s the only inspiration I’ve got at the moment. Feedback?

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    1. I like the idea and I’d connect it with the notion from last week’s Psalm, that God created the Leviathan “just for the sport of it” by saying that God encourages creativity and playfulness in the world and in us. Drawing one’s own image of God is an invitation into a kind of creative playfulness with the divine.

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    2. I like the idea, too. And I think it says something about how we know more about God together than we do individually. Even though our understanding of God is necessarily incomplete.

      I’m sure the fidget spinner idea will go over well!

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    3. Thanks for the feedback! I’ve got an introduction to the Trinity (including a hint of the “gee thanks, early Christians” that mongould described below), then an invitation to draw a picture of God! Who do we imagine when we pray? Where are those places or times when we feel closest to God? Draw a picture of that. And then I’ve got a long list of things that I think people might draw, with supporting Bible verses. Hoping that I don’t get too many surprises… though I suppose that would also be another way in which God meets us, in surprises!

      Also, heading out in a couple of minutes to buy a fidget spinner 🙂

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    4. So it took me a while to realize that at the bottom of the fidget spinner there was a note that it was satire lol. I kept looking at the theology of it and didn’t pay attention to the details. How cool would it be if it were real though!?! I’m still going to use it for the Children’s sermon though, minus the tricks! (PS Am I the only one who didn’t realize right off the bat it was satire?)

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  2. I am planning on using the fidget spinner with the children. I am also baptising my nephew tomorrow (who flew up from Cardiff last night). He is 14 months and very active so it should be a fun,chaotic service. As the congregation all know all about Henry (and his crazy, devoted aunt!) they know the service revolves around him tomorrow and are all looking forward to a happy event after the 4 funerals this week of church folk. We need a lift and I am hoping Henry will help with that.

    Because I knew the family were descending on the house I have finished writing tomorrow’s service and am refusing to look at it again until tomorrow morning. It is 8am here and I am up and raring to go but after a late night last night getting in from the airport the rest of the family are still sleeping.

    We have bacon rolls for breakfast (when they get up!) so let me know if you want one

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  3. this week i am doing a short talk on Trinity and mystery; and a longer talk [in the sermon spot] on creation and responsibility.
    if you are working with the Genesis passage or psalm 8, the story book by Desmond Tutu called ‘let there be light’ was a hit at family church last night. a story version of Genesis 1 with wonderful pictures.
    made pumpkin and ricotta cannelloni this afternoon, lots of leftovers, help yourself.

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    1. My sermon is going to be about Trinity and mystery, I think. It seems safe 🙂

      Thanks for the Tutu recommendation; I’m looking for a children’s time as well.

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  4. I have a diocesan ordination to attend this morning and a premarital counseling session this afternoon. So the day has filled up. Tomorrow is our end of the year picnic and the blessing of the garden with a “beating of the bounds”…so the sermon is on the shorter side, and written but only in draft form so far.

    This has been a very rough week for me, having had to call people and discuss with them a very sensitive situation that has happened to someone we love, an act of misconduct that is all too common in our world, but shocking in this context. It’s been a week of tears and lots of effort to be sensitive and listen and convey only as much detail as is necessary and helpful. Lots of conversation with the Bishop, too, about how to do this and how its going.

    That after returning from a week of driving my son across the country for his new job, and missing him and hoping his apartment lease would come through (it did), and his first week as a professionally employed young man would go well. (It did).

    So, a tough, exhausting week. But sermon is written, waiting for me to tweak it, format it, and get it on my iPad.

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      1. Beating of the Bounds is a ritual from the medieval church where they marked the church property by going outside and saying prayers at each of the directions – North, South, East, West, using will beating drums and or beating of branches to mark the boundaries. It was a prayer for prosperity, good harvest, and God’s blessing.

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  5. I’m re-entering the RCL after 4 years in the Narrative Lectionary. It’s good to be back! Although I sure did think I had more Trinity Sunday sermons to look back on than I seems to be the case.

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  6. I am using Acts this summer so not Trinity wrangling this week for me. This interim position is close to end of their small addition and remodeling project so Acts seems to be a good fit for living into using this new space with intention to the future and continue to think about church outside the walls.

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    1. Thanks! I like your brief notes about the potential dangers of focusing only on one person of the Trinity. I’m hoping to start my sermon with something similar, so your sermon provides good inspiration 🙂

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  7. I seem to be the only person who is sticking with the NL summer series – Psalms. the first is Ps100 – so lots of joy and Thanksgiving…
    Difficult balance – do I ignore the GE that just happened? Mention it and try to remain really neutral?
    I do not know – I do know that the congregation is split between conservatives and socialists; unionists and independents… so some will be delighted; others relieved and others still frustrated.

    With the kids I am on firmer ground – I have chosen to sing lots of versions of Ps100; and to read it from The Message and the AV (KJV if you’re not in Scotland) – to illustrate joy I will be secreting the bubble maker and have a conspirator turn it on when I reach the line “bring a gift of laughter…” bubbles make us joyful and laughing all at once

    I think – I will probably veer towards celebrating things which bring us joy in the sermon with only a passing reference to politics – ugh.

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    1. I did a Psalms series in Lent and really enjoyed it. I had not otherwise preached on Psalms very often. I think a time of celebrating joy would be very refreshing!

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    2. Sounds like you’ve got wonderful ways to share the message of the Psalm! In tumultuous times, in a divided congregation, the prayers may be the most appropriate place to name the election – so that you’re not ignoring it, but also not giving commentary, simply asking for God’s presence.

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  8. Just finished premarital prep with couple to be wed next week. This will be our first Sunday back in our sanctuary after 5 months of being in temporary chapel settings. Trinity tomorrow (which I’ve always avoided) about the God who holds all things together. Not even going to try to explain Trinity which would only lead to one heresy after another. I just plan to acknowledge the work of the early church that gave us this impossible to explain doctrine, but thank them for it anyway. I’m using the Corinthians passage. It is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who bind us all together through the most challenging relationships, experiences, and circumstances. And now to get a bite of lunch-I think a drive thru of some kind. And then an ice cream bar. Blessings on all.

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  9. I’m refurbishing an old Trinity Sunday sermon. I’ve had to cut out a story that I used in another sermon about three weeks ago–I think they might remember. The result is a little dry and a little short. I’m going to ponder and see if I can think of something else. If not, I leave it short and dry.

    Laundry is starting, and I’m gathering up everything (hopefully) that we’ll need for camp this week.

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  10. I am so ready for a break that I have already forgotten what I finished writing just a few minutes ago. Here’s the link: https://pastorsings.com/2017/06/10/disciples-who-make-disciples-sermon-on-matthew-2816-20/ It may or may not have something to do with the four absolute statements nested in the Great Commission (all authority, all nations/people, all the teachings, all the time – my paraphrase). But I do seem to remember that I tried to make the point that the main thing is to be disciples who make disciples. Had a call that some large tree limbs blew down onto the sidewalk in front of our church building, and got to encourage a trustee to be the leader here and take care of it without my physical presence. Which he did, thanks be to God! The bulletins for the next three Sundays are done, so I only have one more newsletter article to write and I can begin a couple of weeks of much-needed time away. There’s a 3-day window in there of our Annual Conference, where I have to get dressed and smile every day, but other than that, I am looking forward to not setting the alarm and not putting on makeup! Help yourself to some veggie kabobs that just came off the grill. Blessings on your Trinity worship!

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      1. You are right about that! I get a week before (study leave) and a week after (vacation), but there wasn’t any way to get two weeks together before Annual Conference, so it is what it is. At least the agenda doesn’t look too contentious this year!

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        1. That’s a great idea. My internship supervisor did the same. That’s a 20 year old recommendation I haven’t gotten around to doing; maybe your nudge will help get me motivated.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Preaching friends, I’m calling it a night. I’m praying for you as you bring God’s word to God’s people, which is always a sacred mystery.

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