planetSo much on my mind these days. So very much. If one lives in the USA, one is probably overwhelmed by the constant “BREAKING NEWS” – always on the brink of disaster and in a heightened state of anxiety. It takes everything I have to stay focused, to aim for calm, thoughtful, leadership.

Our sermon time, for the third year in a row, is a dialogue that I facilitate. I remind the congregation at the beginning of the service to listen for what stands out for them in the readings, what questions they might have, and how the readings are informing us and how we are to be Christians in the world today.

Facilitating these dialogues it turns out is much more difficult than if I wrote and preached a sermon. I have to finesse the differences of opinion and perspective, build trust, and encourage people to speak even when feeling vulnerable. It’s exhausting, but it is also very good.

What are your plans for preaching? In these last days of August as many of us approach the start of a new program year, what are you saying? How are you feeding your people?


The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving in Dearborn, MI. A member of the RevGalBlogPals and blogger since 2006, she blogs at


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.


31 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Late Breaking New(s) Edition

  1. I personally am a guest preacher tomorrow which means that I am both more free and more constrained in my preaching style. However, I do dialogues often — and I agree they are harder and require a significant Sunday afternoon nap but they are so very meaningful!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. looking at the Matthew reading tomorrow: the Canaanite Woman and what makes us unclean. here is the sermon borderlands if you want a look.
    then i am off on study leave for a week – sort of :)I had planned to be away from Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning, about an hour from home, Monday with my husband [our day off] then reading; but Church Council meeting time has been changed since our recent election and is now Friday afternoon this week; and now a funeral on Wednesday; so study leave will be maybe 2.5 days.
    I am looking forward to being in a different environment, with hopefully a better flow in my work days.
    only 10.30 pm, so earlier than many Saturday evenings for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a sermon, I think.
    I promised to preach on Dinah this week and have woven together something with the Canaanite woman that speaks a little to issues of justice, silence and speaking out.

    Jacob knows his sons are likely to wreak revenge and he does nothing. He waits until they come back…he is complicit. He and his sons assume what Dinah wants – rather than ask HER. Silence is not a good thing. When great evils are done our name we should not stay silent. The Canaanite woman’s story is included in scripture too – again a woman’s story which is not about genealogy – and not because it is a great story of ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ but because she calls out Jesus when he responds in a less than ideal manner. She refuses to accept the silence, the shunning, the slurs and persists in getting what she needs for a better future. Showing God’s love for ALL not just those with privilege.

    At the moment what I have is too long. it is sitting at around 23 minutes and I am struggling to edit it down without losing the impact. However….I am sitting with it and will pray more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. I really like how you are working with these texts. It is so very difficult sometimes to make the point one needs to make while being succinct. What’s the usual length of your sermons? I hope you don’t need to cut it much? In my context that would be about 2x what I could get away with…sigh. But wow. I like it a lot – Dinah’s bros not asking her and the Canaanite woman speaking up. Of course Jesus models for us a man who can take it when a women calls him on his assumptions.


    1. The Spirit spoke … Finished at 11PM … woke up at 5:25 AM and reworked it …. cut out half. A bit of Malcom Gladwell … snap judgements … did Jesus perhaps do the same? Are we doing it daily …. RCL scriptures are bold this day…. Come Holy Spirit Come …


  4. I’ve got a good start on a sermon about “words matter.” Starting with the lie we teach our children that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Moving on to gendered language for God, what comes out of our mouths is what defiles, hate speech, and the need to speak out against hate speech… because words are powerful and we can’t let the hateful ones go unchallenged.
    Planning to end with Jesus’ words to the Canaanite woman, wishing that he had offered her an apology for the name-calling, but hoping that at least the positive words he offers later can be the beginning of an example for us.
    Still a lot of work to turn these ideas into a sermon, but it’s coming along!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I worked for three years on a WordsMatter project with the NCC. It was potent work as we listened and struggled with the many assumptions people have about the words/images they use being okay words/images for God, self, others….

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you for lifting up “words matter.” I’m reworking some old words on the Matthew text; I wish Jesus hadn’t said that, and ‘she persisted.’ I think “words matter” may be just the thread I need to bring it closer together. Blessings on all the rest of you out there prepping.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Have been struggling all week with what to say this week – it is only my fifth Sunday in my new appointment(s) – two struggling churches in the inner city. I know for a fact that there are some Trump supporters in one of the congregations, which is making me wonder what I can say that will be heard. But I am also not going to be silent.
    I was on vacation last week (including Sunday) and read a book about an Italian Catholic boy who risked his life to save Jews during WWII (Beneath a Scarlet Sky). That is part of my platform. Using the Romans text to underline that God’s grace is for everyone. All means All. And using the Matthew text to say that Jesus knew when he was wrong to deny grace, and he changed his mind. Ending with a powerful letter our Bishop wrote to clergy, and another to laity, condemning the violence, followed by concrete suggestions from the website about what our actions can be. I am hoping using the denominational resources to back me up will limit the criticism. But I also don’t care. Enough is enough. Grace is greater.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely have Trump supporters in my parish, so I hear your concern – the need to speak out and the desire to be heard. Brene Brown’s Facebook live video that is making the rounds on Facebook might be useful, if you haven’t seen it. It’s long, but helpful in how she articulates having conversations. Maybe not in the context of a sermon? But maybe? It sounds, though, like you have a good sermon going. One thing I have found helps when I preach sermons that are controversial is to move into first person – saying things like, “For me this means…and I do think…or I do…or I say”…instead of You or we. It is less threatening when people can consider what I might do and whether or not they can too. My Family Systems work strongly advocates for clearly defining self in times of high anxiety. Anyway. Prayers for you as you get this to a place inside of you spirit and summon the Holy Spirit to have your back.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am having a hard time. I am doing a sermon series on Romans, and I had planned to preach from Romans 4, talking about inclusion, but also about faith as trust, and how we can trust God and have hope in God’s promises, even when the world looks bleak. But…. yesterday morning, one of my dear friends lost her sister. Her sister was only 24 years old….she had been in the hospital with pneumonia, but went into cardiac arrest unexpectedly and passed away. My friend is absolutely devastated. In the wake of it all, I just don’t feel like writing a sermon about hope and trust today. I need some guidance from the Spirit.


    1. Oh my goodness, what a shock! So sorry to hear about your loss, and holding your friend and her family in prayer.

      Maybe this would be a good week to have an interactive sermon… read from Romans and state the themes of faith/hope/trust, then ask the worshippers to share stories of faith/hope/trust from their lives. Wrap it up with a prayer (God, thanks for being our hope, even in times of struggle) and call it good?

      At times like this, is would be so nice if Sundays were just another workday for pastors, so we could call in sick instead of having to lead worship. Blessings to you.


    2. Life is so very very fragile. It’s fragility leaves one raw and vulnerable. The love of a good friend is a reminder of hope and trust. You are that, in your raw vulnerable state, you are love and trust for your friend, even if you don’t feel it, that’s okay. Its the history of your friendship that will stand steady for the love and trust in this broken time.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Hannah, you are standing with your friend in her grief and you are grieving. That would be hard for me, too, to focus on writing a sermon that doesn’t contain all the emotion of that grief! And yet, as Terri above says, “Life is fragile” and we become raw and vulnerable in that place. I have found that God speaks a message for the people out of those vulnerable spaces we find ourselves in, in what appear to be inopportune times, at least when it comes to sermon prep! Let the Romans text speak to your soul right now and see what is birthed as a sermon.


  8. It’s nearly bedtime here…tomorrow is the last day of our “generation to generation” summer series. We are finishing up with the bit of Acts 2 where Peter quotes Joel: “your young will see visions, your elders will dream dreams.” It’s a sort of modified service attempting to be all-age friendly without being a full-on all-age extravaganza. So the order of the service is basically the same, but during the sermon we are going to ask people to participate in a “what do you see?” exercise. The cover of the order of service has a photo of a cloud, and we’ll be asking people to name what shapes they see in the cloud. Then after we’ve practiced with that, we’ll hold up a couple of pages of abstract art (ha…made by me, earlier this week, with poster paints and cling film, sort of in ink-blot style) and ask what they see. I’m planning to frame it as part of our learning to see what God is doing even when our initial feeling is of chaos or disorder…somewhere in there is God, and the gift of the Spirit is that old and young together can receive and use this gift.
    I’m not writing anything down, so hopefully in the morning it’ll all become more clear. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I was on vacation last Sunday and through this week. I really wanted to be there, with my people, last week, to talk over Charlottesville. However, my thoughts are clearer and better prioritized this week. I’ll share them at the end of the sermon. The sermon itself (ahem. When I write it) is the conclusion of our “sermons by request.” It’s the leftover questions that didn’t really need a whole sermon, or for which I didn’t really want to write a whole sermon. So it’s some snippets of scripture and sermon-ettes. I’m having vacation hangover and not wanting to get started.


  10. I’ve preached Acts all summer and tomorrow is the last sermon. A fair share is sharing nuggets from all the lessons learned on our journey. The sermon title is Three Taverns (it is in the text 🙂 ) so there was no question that was the title. It did work.

    The building project is done and now we have to put things back in. We had three rooms literally stashed with stuff and a huge pod outside. The did a good job of purging in October and after today our garage sale this Saturday has a ton of items. Goodness, I am tired.

    One of the parishioners left sweet corn and home grown cucumbers on my porch…so that’s a plus.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. [Ugh. Lost my comment.] Jet lagged but have a sermon:
    Our history is an open wound bleeding all over our hopes and dreams, so long untended that its infection is poisoning the whole body. We have not learned from Israel who survived a holocaust, Germany who perpetrated a holocaust or Rwanda who survived and perpetrated a holocaust that you have to confront it. Tell the stories, learn from them, lament them. In the language of the church, confess, and repent. Silence about our sins breeds the corruption that lies about or denies who we are and what we have done.
    One of the truths we have to tell is that the bible is a slaveholding document from a slaveholding era. We have to tell the truth that the bible justifies the Israelite’s terrible ethnic biases and even ethnic cleansings, against other peoples in the name of God, and that we used that language to justify slavery an these shores and wiping out our own Canaanites. And, we have to tell the truth that Jesus never condemned slavery, used the language of slavery as though it was normal, and in some cases, healed or raised folk who then went back to being slaves. [That’s really hard for me because I sing with my ancestors: Before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.].
    Yet, this same Jesus also shows us what it is to be human, to wrestle with ancestral legacies of bias. The Syro-Phoenician woman and her daughter are not the only ones who emerge from that encounter changed. Jesus goes forward to proclaim a gospel in which all are welcome to the table because as one social media commentator put it: She taught him that Syro-Phoenician lives matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like your trip to Israel was fabulous. Welcome back (I guess….considering the state of these states)….but I do like that this woman speaks back to Jesus, that she teaches him the Syro-Phoenician lives matter.


  12. praying for Hannah and her friend in the loss of her sister. And thanks to Wil for that great good word. I have a longish sermon, but I am not cutting any of it – it needs to be said. I don’t usually stay up this late or write on Saturdays, but coming off of vacation is hard! I need to finish the funeral sermon for tomorrow afternoon before I can go to bed. Tomorrow – education committee and worship at church #1, worship at church #2, back to church #1 for the funeral and repast, and then I collapse and try to remember that God is good, all the time, even when time off means extra time later, even when there is hate in this broken world. Blessings to all of you!

    Liked by 1 person

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