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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "On Fire" Edition

The Texts This Week

The Festival of Pentecost -- as many of us tell our Sunday School kids, it's the "birthday of the Church." Yet the tame flames of candles on a birthday cake are nothing like the dramatic fire and wind of the Spirit visiting the people of God in powerful and unpredictable ways.

What text(s) will you use as a thematic anchor for your sermon this coming Sunday, and why? Discuss!

And -- bonus points -- let us know if you're planning any special worship elements -- visual, choral, liturgical -- for this important Sunday in the life of the church.

Artwork: "Tipped Flames," Kazuya Akimoto


  1. We're having red balloons. I had thought that I would have lost my hair by now (I had my first chemo Friday) and threatened to have red flames painted on my bare skull. So, unless I shave my head, no flames for me. I also want birthday cake. I love Pentecost. It is my favorite church holiday. The spirit comes!

    I'm recycling a sermon on Acts 2 cause I'm going to Cleveland, OH for a second opinion and there is only so much I can do.

  2. I'm leading Children's Worship, so I'm thinking that we'll read about the first Pentecost. Then we'll do a lesson will be about the gifts of the spirit. I'm leaning toward making a posterboard puzzle they have to put together. It will have a scripture in secret code that can only be "interpreted" when kids open gift envelopes and find clues to the code.
    Love the Red Balloons!

  3. We have a mobile of origami doves, and a new banner of flames...and pinwheels for everyone! It's all very exciting. I'll be making up a children's time that is also for adults (so I can use it at the service when children are in SS too) incorporating pinwheels. I'm open to suggestions. :-)

    I'm going to run upstairs and take a picture of the doves and post it on my blog right now. :-)

  4. I'm going with the Acts text, but the Numbers passage has intrigued me too. I may incorporate that too. The title, in my apparent series of boring titles, is "The Spirit is Upon Us."

    We'll be wearing red...haven't thought about the children's time yet.

  5. Oooo - I LOVE that painting! We tend to have extras in our service - sometimes incense, the doves high on poles in our procession, and wonderful, wonderful music.

    I reflected some on the lections for Sunday here, and then found that I had some more musings that I wrote here.

    For me, probably the most important part of Pentecost is - as you pointed out - the difference between our tame fire and the untameable and unpredictable movements of God. I never used to really get why this was an important day in the church year, but now it's one my my most favoritest.

  6. I'm going with Numbers: "Would that all God's people were prophets!" Talking about (I think) the untamable Spirit and that it rests even on those "outside in the camp" and the nature of prophets in the Hebrew Bible, tying it in to the movement of the Spirit among people on the margins.

    It will be different for us--we're pretty traditional for Pentecost, usually going with Acts 2 and different translations. But this year I'm REALLY shaking them up!

  7. We have intergenerational worship, and there will be red kites involved, including small red kite magnets to take home. Which I guess means we are focusing on wind...
    All I have to do is show up and give a pastoral prayer, using 1 Corinthians as a basis. I love it!

  8. With Mother's Day being one of the top 3 worships in attendance at my place, I am trying to integrate mothering/ mothers in with Pentecost/birthday of the church. I am probably gonna try something about the church as "mother" for red balloons and kites and pinwheels--maybe I'll use them all in the childrens time!

  9. songbird--last year we had a huge red kite suspended from the ceiling. It was awesome! Unfortunately, it also blocked the view of the powerpoint screen for about 30% of the sanctuary, which was a problem. But it was really cool!!

  10. I like the ideas about the origami doves and the kites and pinwheels - maybe I need to get a pinwheel as a prop for my sermon. :)

    I haven't far on the sermon. Sunday preached about the new ministry we've started together being grounded in prayer. Thinking about going with being empowered for ministry by the Spirit.

    For worship on Pentecost I'm using:
    Dona Nobis Pacem from the Hymnal 1982 (Hymn 712) (Latin - Give us your peace)) during communion, Cantad al Senor (Spanish - Sing to the Lord) as a closing hymn from Wonder Love and Praise, and Baba Tiri Pano, a folk song in Shona, taught to some of us at seminary by a student from Zimbabwe. (Father we are here, we are here in your name, Jesus we are here... Spirit we are here...) as our Hymn of Praise to do the whole languages thing.

    We'll see how it goes. This is not really a singing congregation, but Sunday several came after coffee hour to learn the songs.

    We will practice songs at the beginning of the service so people
    will be more familiar with how to sing them. I typed the words
    out phonetically to help with pronunciation.

    I'm planning to read the gospel in Spanish and then the deacon
    read it in English.

    Also planning to do renewal of baptismal vows as in one of my books Pentecost is suggested as a good time for baptism or renewal.

    Have asked folks to wear red. We will have red carnations in the
    narthex for women (Mother's Day).

    At this point I don't really have
    any "decorations" planned like red balloons or anything.

  11. Funny, I knew it wasn't a groundbreaking idea or anything, but I didn't know it was a "thing" either - - the kites. My husband took a kitemaking class last year, and has since made some on his own, and taught some Boy Scout troops and things like that. When we moved to this new church in January he offered to do it with the Sunday School kids. I thought Pentecost was a logical choice. It wasn't really planned that they be red, but that's the color of the cellophane he bought months ago, so that's what they'll use. After worship we'll have an intergenerational kitemaking gathering which should be fun.

    To make sure the significance for Pentecost is pointed out (it will be more chaotic after worship) I'll do that for my children's sermon with one he has already made.

    This is my first Pentecost preaching, but I already feel like I have heard every possible variation on the "usual" Pentecost sermon. Even though I haven't preached it I feel like I'm already sick of it. And I love Pentecost!!!

    Right now what I'm thinking is that I'll piggyback off the kite idea - - the kite as evidence of the wind which is invisible - - and instead of preaching traditionally, do a little congregation-participation testimony-telling time. We'll prime some pumps at our mid-week "alternative" service to make sure there are some willing to share, but otherwise mostly I'm just going to open it up to people who are willing to share what has been evidence of the Spirit in their lives. I will plan opening and closing remarks and my own testimony in case we're having trouble getting the converstaion flowing. I think that's my plan.

    Not much heavy duty exegesis or anything, but some more non-traditional stuff that this congregation seems to be embracing when I've felt the Spirit move over the last couple of months.

    I'm getting ready really start focusing us being attentive to the Spirit and discernment as we look for God's will for our ministry future. I'm new and they have had a long hard-working, but necessarily joyful interim. They did a lot of fixing of their internal issues, so now I want us to "ride the Spirit" moving forward and outward in ministry and mission. I feel like I've had a lot of Spirit sermons, but that seems to be the call I've been getting to preach.

    We'll see what comes of it!

  12. I like the origami birds, too. wish I'd thought of them. I'm thinking of using 1 Corinthians 12 (gifts of the spirit) and giving each person a piece of different-colored paper, to put together into a rainbow, of sorts.

    Hard not to do Acts, though. It's the story.

  13. I had to share the origami mobile with a couple members of our worship committee...maybe next year we can incorporate the idea into our worship space somehow.

    Has anyone ever seen pix of the Pentecost installation at Grace Cathedral -- or the real thing? Very cool -- ribbons in "fire" colors suspended from the ceiling, flowing hither and yon.

  14. hedwyg - - Thanks for your thoughts. They have been a GREAT jumping off point and inspiration for our mid-week worship. Our music/worship director is excited to plan a visual worship display for the front of the sanctuary based on your idea of the Spirit in the 4 elements. If it pans out like we're hoping I'll take some pictures to post to you.


  15. I'm focusing on 1 Corinthians. I originally entitled the sermon "Many Gifts, One Spirit" from the text, but then I received the current Interpreter (UM) magazine and the cover had "Many Faces, One Body" and I decided to combine these. For Children's time, I plan to photocopy the page and cut out the shape of a person, then cut it into puzzle pieces and have the children assemble it. I also plan to include a special prayer for Mother's Day from the UM Book of Worship.

  16. Non-lectionary church person checking in here... Since it is Mother's Day in the US we are starting a four week series on family relationships. It's student intern preaching Sunday. :)

    I'm preaching on Hannah and giving our kids to God. Outline almost done. Three teaching pastors-mentors all encouraging and suggesting.... and I'm getting more ideas than one can put into 20 minutes.


  17. Red Balloons, children teaching the congregation a song that invites all kinds of folks to sing "jubilate deo", birthday cake afterwards. Fun!

  18. I am going a similar direction to Rainbow PAstor. I think we don't know what to do with the SPirit-filled prophetic voices in our world. Jeremiah Wright may make it into the sermon. He did get mentioned in my early thoughts.

    If anyone is looking for some liturgical pieces (no kites or birds though) you can find what we are useing here

  19. Hmmmmmmm, that first link didn't seem to register.

    My early thoughts are here

  20. barnabas1183JoanCalvin--my prayers are with you.

    I am having confirmation and affirmation of baptism on Sunday so I am not preaching so much on the lessons as I am talking about the movement of the Spirit in our lives that allow us to be faithful. I am also talking about what membership in the Church means in the light of the coming of the Holy Spirit. I think I will use some of the I Cor. reading to talk about the Body of Christ.

    I am confirming my first person--as an Episcopalian in the Lutheran church, this is not a normal thing and in my tradition the work of the bishop. I am going to wear my new pink shirt for the occasion! Anybody want to kiss my ring?

    We are taking in more than 10% of our sunday attendance in new membership on Sunday. I hope such an influx doesn't come back to bite us.

  21. Thank you all for such great ideas - especially the images and the children's lessons. I've been wondering what to use to help decorate the worship space...thank you! Cake is always a good thing...

    I'm using the Acts 2 story and the Litany for Mothers Day (UMC GBOD worship website) to try and combo Pentecost with Moms Day. Since the reading is so long, I've divided it into three parts and we'll sing "Let it Breathe On Me" (UMH #503) in between the verses.

    I really want to point to the inclusivity obtained through those divided tongues and try to build on that for Peace with Justice Sunday next week. But, it's only Tuesday and the Spirit could move me someplace completely different! :)

  22. For Joan Calvin (no email link on your blog)?

    Where you are going is probably a matter of blocks from my home, thee one I'm actually at when I'm not in another city seminary. If you would like to get together -- maybe it would be good to have a cup of coffee with an unfamiliar face? -- please email me! I would be glad to come down to the hospital and hang out with you a bit if I'm there.

  23. I love this story from the Abbas (and the Ammas)...

    Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be changed into fire? 1

    1 The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century, Thomas Merton, New Directions Books, Norfolk, CT, 1960, p. 50.

  24. We're wearing red, we've got a baptism, and we're having an intergenerational event between services. A local liturgical artist is going to help everyone tap into the Spirit's presence by drawing mandalas...then she'll come and make art during worship.

    We've been exploring "art as spiritual practice" off and on since last summer.

    And the choir's going to sing "Christ Sends the Spirit," this wonderful anthem by Richard Proulx whose refrain is "the gale of God, the singing fire of life."

    Yum. :-)

  25. We've encouraged people to wear red, and I'm making "fire streamers" for the children's sermon. I'll take short lengths of dowel rod (or even chopsticks) and attach lengths of red, orange, gold, and yellow ribbon. I'll give them to the kids right before the Gospel and invite them to come with me to the center of the congregation and wave the streamers while I read the Gospel (or maybe the Acts text, if I rearrange the service a bit).

    At my text study group this week, we talked about this Marcus Borg article, particularly about the idea that Pentecost is the "reversal" of Babel (Genesis 11) in that the fragmentation of humanity is overcome. I like that and will probably play with that in my sermon.

    As far as a Mother's Day connection, one of our group suggested picking up on the quotation of Joel in Acts. Since it's a common worry for mothers about whether their children will have faith, the phrase "your sons and your daughters will prophesy" might be a way to acknowledge Mother's Day while still preaching the text.

    My word verification is "crmkwnhh"; now THAT's speaking in tongues!

    Blessings on your study and preparation this week.

  26. Gord--

    Thank you for posting those liturgical pieces; I'm already moving things around in my bulletin to make room for them. I can hardly wait to hear my elderly Norwegian widows and farmers calling themselves "windy firebrands"!

  27. This will be my second Sunday as Acting Senior Minister (I'm really the Associate but we're in transition waiting an interim minister). I'm going after the Jews in Jerusalem heard were brought out because they heard the noise of the wind and then the disciples speaking in the natives tongues of the Jews. I'm going to focus on how we each need to listen for God in the means that we are most receptive. Is it hearing? Seeing? Moving?
    I'm still working on Mother's Day. We will give out red carnations to all the women as part of the children's sermon. I'm considering weaving in the many ways in which mothers speak to their infants: holding, feeding, singing, bathing, etc. And how God does the same.

  28. i am just starting to think about what to preach. i wrote this poem a couple of months ago, but, alas, it's not a sermon!!

  29. We're encouraged to wear red, including HATS and shoes if we have them. Woohoo!

    Choir is singing something dandy called "Come thou Holy Spirit, Come" from The Doublin Troper (c.1360), arr. John Scott

    I love reading what you all are doing.

  30. last year for the children (and adults) I made popcorn over the candle in church. got the idea from the web, and don't know where. one kernel of popping corn, in a large spoon with a drop of oil, and hold over the flame. it does pop, though takes a minute or two. talk about popcorn, movies - Pentecost/God's journey is a great story [like a good movie], and here we also have popcorn at parties. and then when you look at the popped grain, you see the great transformation that the spirit makes. comparison with intial grain - closed/open, not edible/edible etc etc.
    this year I was thinking of taking a tin whistle, it needs breath to be able to play it, but I think the Sunday School is doing something with Chorinthians. Windmills are also a great illustration, they have point into the wind, they function to bring water from underground - just as the church exists to bring life-giving water to the world.
    all that said, I haven't started on this week yet, though the church is dressed in RED.

  31. joan calvin - prayers ascending....

    On a lighter note, as a child of the 80's I would have a hard time keeping a straight face with red balloons everywhere. I would want to do the entire service in a German accent!

  32. Also, it is nice to have been here long enough that I can mention how great women are at the children's sermon, hand out plants and leave it at that!

  33. Glad someone else is having images of a random red ballon floating around. I thought it was just me. :)

  34. I've signed up for Festival of Homiletics - woo hoo!

    Hard to pick readings for our bulletin yesterday, I liked them all. Tempted to use Numbers, but went with 1Cor. I love that there are many gifts, and the image of many parts and one body. The story from numbers or a reference to it may still make it's way into the sermon. I'm at the sitting with the text and brainstorming stage. I still like the empowered for ministry idea, and am also liking the thought that things change, disciples are transformed when the spirit comes (and being molded and transformed may not be comfortable). Was thinking of the title Veni Sancte Spiritus or Come Holy Spirit. Also, when we say Come Holy Spirit, do we really expect the Spirit to show up?

    Last night at bible study a question from Living the Good news was about what the disciples experienced. I tried to explain it from their perspective or from the pov of crowd who heard in their own language. Ooh, that gives me the thought of doing a First Person narrative. As always it will be interesting to see where this ends up.

  35. In the many parts one body theme. There's something I read in Henry Nouwen's Can You Drink The Cup that's seemed to stick with me. I'm paraphrasing, not sure where the book is at the moment. It's the imagery of a mosaic. How one stone by itself doesn't look like much but when you place a whole bunch together you can make a mosaic. That as a church the mosaic we make up is the face of Christ. When people aren't using their gifts or joining the community then it takes away from the fullness of the picture, Christ's face isn't complete. The mosaic needs each of the stones.

  36. Only if you start with 99 WS. I had that thought too. ALways liked that song

  37. (Dork) Me I mean. Not only is there 99 Red Balloons, but I was thinking of that short children's film where the little boy chases the red balloon through Paris.

  38. No worries SheRev -- the dork label fits here pretty well.

  39. We decided to go "green" and offered potted red & orange geraniums for sale (instead of balloons) and they will line the steps of the chancel; created 14' swaying poles and attached variety of red & orange ribbons/streamers that will process in and for the gospel reading and recess out.
    I'm preaching on 1st Cor. 12:13, and the overarching theme is "diverse peoples unified in Christ through baptism". The bulletin cover art is an image I found years ago (while going through international adoption) that I call "a morph" of children of the world. It is circular in its shape and the 1st Cor 12;13 verse is circled around the image. As part of my internship requirement, I must incorporate multi-media into a sermon at least once and so found an awesome video on youtube "He Reigns" by the Newsboys. Wonderful imagery & great lyrics! We'll sing "one bread one body" for communion song.
    So now, to write the actual sermon!


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