I don’t know about you, preachers, but my mind has a few too many things going at the same time, and my thoughts are all scrambled and twisted up, like the roots on this overturned tree.

Photo by Monica Smith, 2019

Let’s see if we can help each other clarify and refine those twisted up ideas. Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary discussion posts are at the links. Ask questions, share resources, encourage each other, and have a good time at the preacher party!

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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30 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Gnarled and Twisted Edition

  1. I’m going with the RCL passages in Isaiah 6 and Luke 5, focusing on the moments when Isaiah and Peter realize they are having an encounter with God. Wow! And then…seems like in the Bible, any time anybody has this incredible vision of God, there’s a reason. And the reason is “Go out and do this thing.” You can sit in the pew and be awed…but there’s always a call involved. Be amazed at the moment. But know it will change your life.

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  2. I am working with Matthew chapter 7 in the NL. i expanded the reading to include the whole chapter now there are so many bits to it, and i am wondering how to make a cohesive whole. i am thinking of choosing a few parts as examples of living out the kingdom life. i also read that the Sermon on the Mount is about proper living, not correct belief, so i think that will make it as well. it is Saturday afternoon and i am about to fall asleep, hopefully a nap will help get the sermon thoughts untangled.


  3. I’ll dump my mess here and hope it helps me find some clarity! I’m the associate, and the rector’s mom died Tuesday, expected soon but not this fast. Beloved (truly) retired priest in the congregation is in the hospital. I’ve been dealing with abdominal pain all week; saw the doctor and it’s nothing catastrophic but may take some days to resolve. Plus all the stuff that the rector usually deals with that’s now on my plate. 3 services to preach tomorrow; 2 need to be kid-friendly, plus it’s Scout Sunday.
    I keep returning to the idea from Luke 5 about the old ways not working and Simon & Co. probably being so tired out and not really wanting to try again. But they do, and the result is an abundance that breaks the nets (old ways?). I have a couple ideas of examples of old ways not working and being really worn out from trying–one,for the Scouts especially, the hard slog hiking in the nearby mountains if your pack isn’t adjusted and your load is out of balance, and how when you get it right you can look up and see the beauty around you–but I’m stuck on how to translate for the kids that sense of God’s abundance more widely beyond the specific example. I don’t want to head down the superhero God road, where God suddenly makes everything better. So what does God’s abundance look like to a child when they are weary of life’s challenges? (I’m a school chaplain, preach multiple times a week to kids, and I can’t figure out why this is escaping me!)


    1. Betsy, can you go with God’s abundant grace? We keep making mistakes – not being nice to our friends, not listening to our parents, yelling at our siblings, yet each day God still loves us. There is nothing we can do that will make God not love us – that’s pretty abundant! And we see that grace when our friends are still our friends, our parents still love us, and our siblings will still share their toys with us. Just a thought…


      1. That would be fabulous…except it’s almost exactly what I did a month ago, also on our youth choir Sunday (2nd of every month; having the Scouts there tomorrow is just a bonus). But it’s a message that can’t be heard enough, so I’ll mull on your way of describing it, and maybe I can get at it from a different angle. Thanks!


  4. Struggling to say something new. I preach a handful of times a year, and my one thing that I say over and over is God calls each of us. Where is God calling you right now? I’ve used all my call stories (my own and ones from friends and examples from the congregation and ones I’ve read) in other sermons. While I continue to think that message is important, I feel pulled to say something different this week. I am working through the Luke 5 passage itself, and there’s a lot in there, but I need a thread to pull it together and make it more than just exegesis. –Wendy


    1. I read something similar (about deep waters = chaos) this week, and it struck me, but it will have to wait for another year’s sermon. Thanks for posting!


  5. It’s past time to get something on paper about Matthew 7. I think I might have something to say for an opening but I’m honestly not really sure where it’s all going right now. I have this note about the end of the reading (the bit about building house on rock vs sand) that says “a house built in the dry season *seems* ok, but…” so I’m pondering if there’s somewhere to go with that.
    I also usually talk to the children about the scripture reading, and have it read in the middle of that so I can first set the scene and have them listen for something, then talk about what they heard afterward, but I don’t think that works particularly well this time as it’s a more proverbs-esque reading with a lot of one-liners that’ll be over their heads, so we may just talk about the Golden Rule and call it good. Not sure what exactly I will want to say about that, or how to help 3 and 4 year olds understand it, but….somehow that seems easier than getting my sermon together right now! Eek.

    For those just now approaching dinner time, I made the biggest vegetarian shepherd’s pie tonight and there are about 15 servings left, so dig in! 🙂


    1. I find those “collection of sayings” passages really hard to preach, so you have my sympathy. Shepherd’s pie sounds delicious–thank you!


  6. I had to write on Monday this week as a seminary friend was due in for an overnight visit amid a monster snow storm (a foot of snow). Two day presbytery retreat on connecting our souls as pastors followed by a presbytery meeting 90 miles from said retreat. The retreat was wonderful but exhausting as most good soul work is.

    I am in Luke 5 and on week 3 of laying some interim ground work. This might stir the waters a bit tomorrow but we will see. I had shared this RevGals Interim group wondering how visitors might “hear” this passage. I share it here if it will help anyone. The title is “Holy Bathos!”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have been reading through the questions you answered in worship a couple of weeks ago. The last question was to lift up three wishes for Community of Grace. A common theme was to “go fishing”.
    • Specifically identified was fishing for more kids and young families
    • Also listed was the word growth.
    • Which could mean growth in our depth of understanding of God or growth in numbers

    I am never surprised by those yearnings and the next question is usually what will make our church grow?

    That may just be the wrong question to ask.

    A better question would be, “What is keeping our church from growing?”

    There are a zillion books, models and theories on church growth, attracting (and I think that’s the wrong word as well) all different subsets of people.

    Let me cast some ‘Holy Bathos’ questions for you.
    • Do we, ourselves, expect to catch fish?
    • Why do we not talk about adding to our numbers the homeless, LGBTQIA, the poverty stricken or people from other ethnicities?
    • Would a single person be offended by the total emphasis on reaching out to kids and families? More people are opting for the single lifestyle and couples are having less children and later in life.
    • Many of you spoke to feeling most alive when kids and youth are present in our midst and many of you found joy when you participated in the events when your kids were present. Are you still willing to do the same when all your kids are grown?
    • What are you willing to “leave behind” as you go fishing?
    • Why do we want to increase membership? Is it to make our numbers look better? Or to increase the bottom line? New people to do the work so we can just enjoy? I have yet to hear, in my ministry, the number one reason we want to “go fishing” is to help others take a first step on their faith journey or to be a safe place where people can go deeper…no strings attached!


  8. hi friends, came over looking for inspiration or maybe just a place to whine, with apologies…I spent all day today (8:30-4:30) co leading a class for lay servants on Accountable Discipleship. It was fun, it was good, but I am now BONE tired and unable to do anything. I know this would happen when I agreed to do this class. But I still did not finish my sermon yesterday, or figure out a children’s message. The sermon is a recycled one, where I am retelling the gospel story from Simon’s POV, and I like it, but the conclusion just isn’t there. I want to say something about call, but avoid the privileged “just do what God wants you to do don’t worry about money” that will not work in my context.
    I love to teach, but it is definitely energy draining for me. If anyone has any ideas for recharging after such a day let me know.
    And a children’s sermon. Yeah.
    And while I was at the class, I found out that the guy who was supposed to do a funeral for one of my parishioners (with my express consent) spent the night in the ER last night, so now I get to do that on Monday.
    I need a Sunday off, but you know.
    Blessings to all of you, especially Betsy – I get it!


    1. Whew, that’s a lot crammed into just a couple of days! My weekend was like that last week, and I feel like I might be recovering now (!) Thanks be to God for a sustainable sermon!


    1. I feel for those in our group who have to publish sermon titles in advance! So many times I end up at a very different place from where I thought I was headed.


      1. On the good side, it makes me think of a direction early in the week. On the bad said, exactly what you said. My congregation is completely fine with me changing my mind on things, adjusting the Scripture readings, ignoring the sermon title. They’re pretty flexible with things like that.


  9. I’m doing pulpit supply this weekend; I had one service this evening (Saturday) and two more tomorrow morning. I focused on the Gospel text from Luke 5. I preached from an outline, not a manuscript; here’s the general idea.

    I asked who had ever visited a fish market in Boston, Seattle, or some other US coastal city. A few raised their hands, and I explained that the fishing industry in 1st century Palestine was not like that at all. I shared some of the material from the RCL post from earlier in the week (linked above) to paint the picture of an abusive system set up to let the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.

    In thinking about the last few verses (Peter telling Jesus to go away from him, Jesus saying that they would soon be catching people, and the disciples leaving everything to follow Jesus), I wondered aloud if the disciples might have been humming a line from a Kris Kristofferson song, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I suggested that Jesus was calling them, and us, away from a system that focused on wealth and “stuff” and into a system that focuses on people.

    I wrapped up by inviting them to think about Jesus’ call in a metaphor that reflected their own gifts and talents. For fishermen and women, it might be “catching people.” For farmers, it might be planting new seeds. For teachers, sharing the news. For people who work with money and finance, investing in God’s kingdom. For students who might be active in sports, setting the pace to help others.

    Blessings to all of you still writing. I’m going to take advantage of my situation and do a little knitting before I head for bed.


    1. Ah! Thank you for that next-to-last paragraph, Barbara. I think that’s kind of where I was aiming but hadn’t come up with those examples. Jesus is asking us not to do something that is completely alien to us, but rather to do what we know in a new and unexpected way.

      Liked by 1 person

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