The other night I invited some friends over for dinner. I planned a menu that included several dishes that I was just making up in my own head, no recipes. But because we all like different things, some like shrimp for example, and some don’t, I made a variety. We each had a little of something we liked and could ignore the dish we didn’t like. The meal turned out great and we had a nice evening.

Choices are not always so easy. Sometimes the choices are downright challenging. Our readings this Sunday all describe occasions when choices are involved: the father’s inheritance or a meal? the flesh or the Spirit? the good earth or the rocky soil? The categories are almost comical. I mean Esau chose the meal and gave up his inheritance? Paul argues for the kingdom of God now, but then talks about it being only found in the Spirit. Oh right, an embodied Spirit. (Gotta love Paul). And this week launches the series of parables in the Gospel of Matthew, thank goodness, no more of that law and order stuff….at least for now.

This is my last Sunday in the pulpit before I take a couple of weeks off to rest. I have pulled up the sermons from previous years when I preached on this text, and the two I’ve found are both decent. Not sure what that means, if I’ll pilfer from them or just write something new. Regardless, I have choices. What about you? What you pondering this week? What choices lie before you?

This is the preacher party and I have lots of good stuff to keep us nourished today – coffee or tea, fruit and vegetables, bread, cheese, chocolate…..pull up a chair, let the party begin.


The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving a congregation in Dearborn, MI. She is the Convener of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, the organization within the Episcopal Church that advocates for women, theologically, spiritually, and politically. She’s been a member of and contributor to the RevGalBlogPals since 2006, and she blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice.


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35 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Choices, choices, choices

  1. I’m preaching the Genesis passage tomorrow as a guest in a colleague’s pulpit, a PC(USA) elder filling the pulpit for an ABC congregation. The sermon title is “A House Divided,” but to be perfectly honest, I grabbed that title from the resources in my file because I was still wrestling with the passages come time to turn something in and didn’t know where I was going. I still don’t. There is a lot here to unpack, and it has been a busy week of out-of-town family visits and committee meetings and discombobulated preparation not just for this week’s service but also for an out-of-the-box service in another PC(USA) church next Sunday. In my thirteen years of service to the church, I only once — several years ago — had the honor of preaching three weeks in a row, so I’m still figuring out the new rhythm.

    I chose the Genesis passage because the pastor for whom I am filling the pulpit is following the Genesis stories this summer, and while I was given the freedom to preach on whatever I wanted, I wanted to be considerate of what he is doing. It didn’t speak to me as much as the Matthew passage at this time, so I’m wrestling with that as well. Still … thirteen years as Director of Youth and Family Ministries (and 31 years of marriage and motherhood), I know something about family conflict …. in biological families as well as theological families. So this shouldn’t be that hard, right?

    With at least one (and possibly two) more scheduled event(s) on my calendar today, preparation will be disjointed possibly through this afternoon, so I am looking forward to the company and the conversation around family conflict and where God can be found in the midst of it and the choices we make when we are living with and trying to love one another.


    1. It sounds like the title reflects your life, a day divided….all good stuff, right? but divided focus makes sermon writing all the more challenging, especially when the texts are calling out to us to go deep….blessings on all of what you have going on, and may the Spirit fill your efforts and supply you with the words you need.


      1. Yes. Definitely good stuff. I clean for my 93 year old grandmother every other Saturday, and today was a cleaning day. I also had a Prayer Art Retreat scheduled at the local gallery, but when I called to check on registrations, no one had registered, so I canceled and stayed home to work on sermon prep instead. Two “just in case” cancellation calls, and a call about a theological daughter’s brain tumor (mid-20’s, a three year old and a brand new baby) (ugh), and a conversation with a colleague about the passage, and I’m getting ready to start writing. Maybe this week, it’s less about answers and more about questions ….


  2. I may have gone too far afield (no pun intended) with The Reckless Sower. I’m starting with the children, who I hope show up, so that I can toss some seeds out (lima bean seeds, which are apparently dried out lima beans) and talk about how we plant carefully but God throws love all around. (I have packets of seeds with which to send them off.) Then on to how the parable might be first in Matthew and also told in all the synoptics because the seemingly heedless shower would have been a shock to listeners who presumably utilized hard-won resources more cautiously — but how even the seeds which seem lost to us have their place in the ecology of eons. (Did you know, for instance, that when birds digest seeds, they “wash” them in a way that may make them more productive once they have been eliminated far from where they were originally consumed? — though that’s not exactly how I’m going to describe the process. Then on to how even seeds planted in “good” soil produce different results, depending on various factors. All to say to a church in a troubled place that you don’t know and, whether you are seed or sower, and whether it feels like you are talking about a hard path or rich soil, God is at work. It’s a sermon with a lot of overlapping circles, which might be too much, but when I told it to myself in the car yesterday, it seemed to work.


      1. This might be my favorite part of sermon preparation – when I start googling questions like “what happens to seeds eaten by birds?” or “why are thorns good?”


  3. I’m doing sermons by request this month (and it looks like it will stretch into August, too). So this week is some thoughts about how we let the past go and live a new life and another request that asked something about how do we live with an uncertain future. Then I got the idea to throw in “The Monster at the End of this Book” for that last part. And then I told everyone that Grover would be in the sermon, so I really need to figure out how to fit it all together. I’ve chosen Genesis 12 (call to Abraham), as someone who left an old life and went on to an uncertain future. And 2 Corinthians 5:17 and surrounding (anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation). And I think I’m adding in Jesus’ “do not worry” bit from Matthew 6. It feels like a lot, probably too much.

    We’ve also taken care of a member this week, through a loss and a funeral and some troubled family circumstances. I think we’re all tired and could use something uplifting. Hopefully Grover can handle it.


    1. “Sermons by request” fills my heart with just a little bit of terror. Using the RCL as we do in the Episcopal Church I am not sure how I could pull off such a thing even if I were brave enough to try it….well, I guess I could figure out if I HAD too. Anyway, wow! The Grover piece sounds like a perfect way to include the kids and add some humor/levity to the process. Blessings on your day!


      1. Oh, I’m afraid, too. Many requests were things I was expecting. And they proved me correct–the congregation is smarter than I am!


          1. Adding “Kung Fu Panda” can only help, right? I’m specifically putting in this quote from the Turtle to the Panda: You are too concerned about what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.

            Liked by 3 people

  4. After wandering around my house in state of hopelessness as I pondered a number of things I am working through (nothing bad, “just” existential angst over where/how is GOD calling me)…I had some insight and clarity and then the sermon just poured out of me. It’s a little too long and will need tweaking and editing. But….wow. I’m a little stunned at how this morning has unfolded.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Am heading forward with transforming and reforming! God’s word always doing that for us! Sola Scriptura. Every time I read / hear it … there is transformation, recreation ….

    God is always giving word, giving water, feeding always transforming (Isaiah … thorn become cypress and brier becomes myrtle).

    So many images in Matthew/Isaiah: seeds, rocks, cypress, thorns, rain, earth, mountains, snow, bread. And the verbs of movement: making, giving, brought forth, shall come up sowing. Promises for those in exile … promises for us today.

    The word of God gives repentance/forgiveness (for we are broken and forgiven)
    The word of God gives faith through the Spirit
    The word of God gives salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus

    Still a ways to go … and probably a bit to cut

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes! Yes to inviting folks using the building for common meals! YES to inviting people who are part of the revitalization of the community to gather at table! YES! May those with ears hear.


  6. I was doing some cleaning up (if not for procrastination on sermons, I don’t know what would ever motivate me to do that!), putting away an old sermon I’d pulled out recently while looking for something else. And as I thumbed quickly through decades of sermons looking for the correct date to refine that one, what leapt out at me but one from 7 cycles ago of Year A for tomorrow’s propers. That doesn’t have out-of-date references. That is actually pretty good. On an afternoon when there’s a concert I really want to go to this evening. Talk about small miracles! I’ll still do some re-writing, but the bones and a lot of the words are there, and I’m already tapping my toes in anticipation of tonight’s music 🙂


  7. We are in the midst of a series that highlights intergenerational relationships in scripture. Tomorrow I have Ruth/Naomi…and I’m reading almost the whole book, so I only have a short sermon. The title is “Found Family” and I’m starting out talking about, then going on to talk about how there are way more people in the book of Ruth than we normally notice, and in the end they are a found family, tied together not by blood but by faithfulness…I have it pretty well in hand except no ending yet. I need something that brings it around to church family somehow. It’s 10:30pm, so probably I’m going to have ice cream and hope there’s inspiration in the carton. Lol. I’m happy to share–raspberry ripple or salted caramel ice cream from the local ice cream maker, famous throughout Edinburgh! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ah! I’ll have salted caramel! Virtual ice cream is the only opportunity I have to indulge in ice cream these days, so that will be perfect! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hooray, found an ending while washing the dishes and eating the ice cream! Excellent. Just in time to go to bed at an almost reasonable hour! Hoping you all have a visit from the sermon fairy sooner rather than later!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. DONE! Beats the heck out of setting the alarm for 3:30 a.m. like I did last week and writing an entire sermon in the wee hours of the morning! Oh, how I have wrestled this week. Tonight, I will sleep well. Thank you for being here … ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The word according to Wil has the shorter ending now. It may have the longer ending by the 5 pm service. Or not. I’m doing some truth telling about the first family of faith via Sally Hemmings.
    These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac…
    Actually, (what had happened was more like…): These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son with Sarah after he raped her slave Hagar at her suggestion and fathered a son Ishmael who he sent into the desert to die with his mother. We need to tell that story. All of it. Because it has shaped our story here in the Americas and impacted the rest of the world. We need to tell the story that Abraham did not love his children the same. Even though God made him incredibly wealthy, he did not provide for all of his children. He gave “gifts” to Ishmael and his children with his last wife but gave Isaac everything he had.
    Tell the story. Tell the full story.
    Over the 4th of July weekend many celebrated American independence without telling the full story. They skipped over or rushed through the parts in the Declaration of Independence that called Native Americans “savages” and objected to slaves seeking to liberate themselves. When they read, “all men are created equal” they didn’t acknowledge that didn’t apply to black folk or white women folk. They didn’t tell the whole story. The founders of this nation including a quarter of our presidents and a fair number of Supreme Court justices owned slaves and justified it using scriptures like God’s blessing of Abraham with wealth that included slaves. And when over this last weekend the room was uncovered in which Thomas Jefferson kept and raped Sally Hemmings, the 14 year-old girl he enslaved, many news outlets referred to her as his mistress. (Sally, the sister of Jefferson’s wife Martha, was herself likely the product of rape.) The version of the story that is told is not like the version of the story that Sally and other enslaved girls and women lived. Though some will say Jefferson loved Hemmings, he refused to free her ensuring that she would remain a slave and that her children—his children—would be born in slavery.


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