Hello Folks! Between Reformation Day (I’m Presbyterian), All Saints Day, Stewardship Season and Advent breathing down my neck, I am feeling a touch of the busyness of the season. Then, as Christmas encroaches, I picture thanksgiving saying “I’m reclaiming my time” in a clear voice, and I try to give each holy day its time.

And then, wonderfully, the texts draw us back to God.

Reminding us of our Holy potential in the RCL here

Contemplating where to find God for NL here

And Thinking about the Lectionary of Saints and praying about them too.

I am taking a deep breath, looking outside to my US Northeastern Fall weather, and and praying for the Word of God, and also am praying that you can find the same.

How goes the task of sermonizing?


Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for use over seven years. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.


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18 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher: Holiday Haze

  1. Trying to write on Saturday afternoon, rather than leaving it until after dinner tonight. felt a bit wobbly yesterday and today, like i am about to have anepisode of vertigo; so i know i need to pace myself so that doesn’t happen. i stayed home from a workshop today, and slept late.
    I am mentioning All Saints early in the service, and including Rev Mary Austin’s lovely prayer and singing Rejoice in God’s saints. preaching on Elijah from the NL. i have expanded the reading to include 1 Kings 18:17-39 , so we have a sense of why Elijah is running away. As usual starting with history and background, then i think it will be what happens when we feel like running away, when we feel alone, isolated, at risk.
    At Kids Club yesterday one of the leaders, who recently holidayed in the USA, told a story about an Amish father who could not afford a wedding gift for his son, but instead gave him something of little physical value, but would give him a rich and rewarding life if he followed the writing. it was a 1 cent piece [I think] . each child yesterday was given an American quarter, and asked to read what it said: In God we Trust.

    tomorrow we are celebrating communion [monthly here] and at the second service welcoming two people into the congregation who are transferring from another church. A full service. and we are singing one of my favourite hymns, which is new these congregations: Among us and before us Lord you stand.

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  2. We are on our third (and last) week of our WHY statement: Open Hands of Love. I went back to the I Thessalonian’s passage from last week. I didn’t want to use the texts which would come to mind first for most people…love the Lord your God and you neighbor as yourself etc.

    We are also observing All Saints with lighting of candles and a short litany…but I am shying away from that in the sermon…at least at this point. And communion…so the sermon will be much more like a meditation which at this point is OK with me.

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  3. I am focusing on All Saints here in music and sermon, with a short reading of names. ( I have been told that people were upset about candles and/or flowers in the past — “too sad.” That would usually have been enough to push me to a sermon on lament, but I’ve been sick all week and don’t have it in me. Yesterday on the FB page I asked for adjectives describing saints and got a wonderful slew of them — I am tempted to read the list and sit down.

    But I think I will tell a story of my dad, who had his gaping flaws, as we all do. Twenty-eight years old and newly bereaved, wife and baby lost to a car accident, other two children seriously injured, he was told that my younger brother’s arm was too mangled ever to function again. “I was not going to accept that my little boy would never throw a ball or ride a bike,” he said when he told me this, only a few years ago. And so he went to the University of Cincinnati, an hour away, and found an orthopedic surgeon (I looked him up last night; a major player in his field) who looked at the x-rays and said, “I don’t see how I could make it worse. I’ll give it a try.” Today my brother says that his elbow aches when it rains, but that’s it.

    I don’t know if that’s saintliness or not. But it matches some of the words that came up yesterday. Valiant. Compassionate. I think almost every mother or father, given those circumstances (which, when you really think about them, are hard to imagine), would have done exactly the same — but that’s the point — not that saints are so unusual, but that they are examples of what it means to rise to the occasion which, sooner or later and one way or another, we all have to do. So I will ask people to think about their loved ones and what they did to show faithfulness to the gifts of life and love.

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  4. All Saints here…with the beatitudes, and also the Isaiah reading for All Souls Day. A search committee is coming to hear me, so I’m also thinking about that…

    I gave my sermon the title “alternate reality”–thinking about how Jesus is describing the way things are in God’s kingdom, but we can so rarely see that in the midst of this reality in which we live. Rather than being commandments or if-then statements of future rewards for good behaviour (if you were meek, you’d inherit the earth!), they are descriptions of God’s reality. Our task as faithful people is then to learn to see that alternate reality, and live in it, and to do our part to make it the reality more of the world experiences.

    I’m still struggling with an opening, but I don’t have much time left as our church choir is putting on a concert tonight so I need to finally stop reading commentaries, listening to podcasts, and deleting things I write and actually get something worthwhile on paper!

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  5. All Saints here, too, and I am going to try out the Revelation text. Workingpreacher.org was helpful (bud sadly the server appears to be down now so no refreshing my notes and recollection) The text engages our senses – the saints are crying out, singing, loud voices, wearing white robes, carrying palms. These saints are an active, visible and noisy bunch. How are we freed by faith to worship with our whole selves?

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  6. So here is part:

    This is a true story, and I’m not sure about the saintliness part, but it seems to me that important components of sainthood are here.

    It’s a story about a man, 28 years old, whose life is pretty much what we hope for everyone – happily married, well-employed, homeowner, three beloved children. A very good life.

    And then one day there is a terrible accident, and the man’s wife and baby die in that accident, and his other two children are severely injured. The doctors in their small, rural hospital are caring and compassionate, but they come to this young father whose life has been completely destroyed, and they tell him that there is nothing that they can do about his four-year-old son’s arm. It has been shattered at the elbow and rendered useless, and so it will always be.

    This man, who must barely be able to stand up at this point, says, “I am not going to accept that my little boy will never throw a ball, or ride a bike.” And so he heads to the University of Cincinnati Medical School an hour away, to find an orthopedic surgeon of some renown. The doctor looks at the x-rays and says, “I don’t really see how I could make matters worse. I’ll give it a try.”

    Are we hearing any of those saint adjectives yet? I kind of like valiant, and stubborn, and compassionate. Sturdy and persevering.

    I think almost every mother or father, given those circumstances (which, when you really think about them, are hard to imagine), would have done exactly the same — but that’s the point — not that saints are so unusual, but that they are examples of what it means to rise to the occasion which, sooner or later and one way or another, we all have to do.

    Today my brother says that his elbow aches sometimes, when it rains, but that’s about it. And he has another great story about this matter, which is his story, but I’m going to tell it anyway. My brother, who is himself married and a father and a delighted grandfather, owns a financial services firm, and some years ago was at an event at which a panel of wealthy folks had been asked to discuss what they sought in an investment advisor. One of the panelists, an elderly woman who said that she loved to travel and was about to embark upon a round-the-world cruise, introduced herself as Mrs. Giannestras – a somewhat unusual name. During the question-and-answer period, my brother stood up and asked her if she was married to the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Giannestras. “Why yes, young man,” she responded. “My husband was Dr. Giannestras, and he left me very well settled.” “I think your husband also saved my life when I was four years old,” said my brother. Everyone turned around, and they had one of the best investment panel discussions ever!

    Dr. Giannestras is long gone, and I imagine that by this time Mrs. Giannestras is as well. Saints, themselves. My father died a year ago next week-end, and donated his body to the University of Cincinnati Medical School. My father was not, so far as I know, religious in any traditional sense of the world, and, like all of us, his multi-dimensionality meant that there were areas of life in which he was no saint at all! But he was someone, and this is what I think sainthood is all about, he was someone who tried to show faithfulness to God’s gifts of life and love, even in the most devastating of circumstances.

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    1. WOW, Robin! What a moving story! I have goosebumps! I’m so sorry for your loss all those years ago, and so grateful for your father’s strength to have lifted you above it and raised you to share the Good News with all who will hear it. ❤

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    2. Robin, you tell your beautiful story so wonderfully well. It is what got me reading Gannet Girl all those years ago. Thank you for sharing this part. It’ll preach!

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  7. It is 3:30 p.m. here, and the final draft is done, I think. I’m preaching for a colleague tomorrow for the second time with this congregation (and within three weeks). I’m focusing on the Joshua passage for a people standing on the threshold of the Promised Land, and have told the story my charismatic sister-in-law shared about the building of their new home fourteen years ago. The sermon title is “Step into the Water,” reminding them to go forward in faith that God is faithful, and to keep their priorities in order. I need a little distance from the text, and will look at it with fresh eyes later tonight or in the morning, but glad to have reached this point. This is the last preaching opportunity on my calendar at this point, and likely for sure through the end of the year. Grace and peace to all of you who are still listening and translating ….

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  8. I’m tired – started today with a 6:15 run, then charge conference across town, then zoomed home to pick up my kids to take them to a play downtown. I’m going to pretend it’s not daylight savings and see if I can grab some “me and God” time tomorrow morning. In the meanwhile, I finished the sermon, but now have to rewrite parts of it for congregation #2. Such are the joys of serving two churches at once. I used the imagery of Halloween and masks to talk about the different “masks” God puts on in the Revelation passage, and then brought in the children of God part from 1 John. I think it will work, and I am very happy to have found two friends (a retired pastor and a trained editor) who have agreed to review my sermons each week.
    I am joining a new book club tomorrow and the book is “Salt: A World History” so as soon as I am done here I am going to try to make some sea salt brownies. Happy to share! Blessings to all.

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  9. I’m back from the choir concert, and after a little (ok, a lot) of reworking (or overworking), I have my sermon draft up here: http://clevertitlehere.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/alternate-reality-sermon-on-beatitudes.html. I would love comments if you’ve got them! I have about an hour and a half in the morning to edit (or re-write, not for the first time this week…). It’s nearly midnight now so I’m headed to bed, and hoping for genius to strike while I sleep. 🙂

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  10. I’m finally buckling down and getting to work. My sermonizing is going later and later each week, and it stresses me out. I’m working on the Gospel but don’t have much right now

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    1. Monica I am right there with you. I’m working on the Gospel for the 22nd Sunday, not the Beatitudes, and am going with the suggestion of preaching from the perspective of the hypocrite. I am feeling frustrated with myself as a leader, so it may also become a bit of an apology to them, or at least a reminder that I’m not perfect either. I just need to make sure that I do not take all of the blame for larger issues within the church. The hope at the end is to remember grace and free ourselves from the pressures of self-promotion as suggested in the Feasting on the Word Homiletical perspective.

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