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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Putting Away the Alleluias Edition

Today is Fat Tuesday, which means the lean days of Lent must be just around the corner. But, with your belly full of your Mardi Gras pancakes, you'll have plenty of energy with which to greet the coming season!

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I don't preach a sermon that day - we have an evening meditative service with lots of silence and music. How about you?

Looking ahead to Sunday, what will you have to say about Jesus' time in the wilderness? Or are you leaning toward conversation about Moses and the meaning of first fruits? Maybe you'll tackle Romans this week.

As you head into this time of preparation, you might also want to consider how you as a leader/pastor/preacher will mark the days of Lent for yourself. At the Working Preacher site this week, Arlend Hultgren says "By refusing to follow the temptations of the devil, Jesus remained faithful to his vocation, given to him at his baptism. He would not be the messiah that some would have wanted, including the devil."

How might your own Lenten practice clarify who you will and will not be, as you remain "faithful to (your) vocation"? Whatever your practice, words of 40 Days and 40 Nights (no not the Tim McGraw song - this one is by George Smyttan, and the words are from the New Century Hymnal) are both comfort and challenge:

Forty days and forty nights
You were fasting in the wild
Forty days and forty nights
Tempted and yet undefiled.

Shall we not your sorrow share
and from worldly joys abstain,
Fasting with unceasing prayer,
Strong with you to suffer pain?

Then if Satan on us press,
flesh or spirit to assail,
Victor in the wilderness,
grant that we not faint or fail!

So shall we have peace divine
holier gladness ours shall be
Round us too shall angels shine
Such as served you faithfully.

Keep O keep us Savior dear
Ever constant by your side
That with you we may appear
at the eternal Eastertide.

Painting of Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness by Chris Cook.


  1. Thanks for getting us started, Juniper.

    I don't think I've ever done two Ash Wednesday services the same. I've preached some and not others. This one will not be a preaching service. We have a bimonthly Wednesday evening service (called Soup & Spirit) that the music director usually puts together - - mostly contemplative, always participatory in some way, often multi-sensory. She found a "stations" worship service at this Fresh Worship blog that we will be using this time. Last year we cancelled the usual "Soup and Spirit" worship service that is usually about 30 minutes and moved it all a half hour, disrupting choir practice to have a more traditional Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 p.m.. Hardly anyone came who doesn't usually come to the S&S service, so this year we decided to just do S&S with an Ash Wednesday theme. This service that was found will be perfect.

    For Lent I'm off lectionary. It always seems like a good idea when I'm planning to do that, but when I get there I feel lost because no one else is with me. I just was not feeling the texts at ALL this year (other than the temptation which I REALLY wanted to do actually). Also, I'm going to miss some of the fun parables this summer when I'm gone on maternity leave. Also, we're having a congregation-wide discernment and planning session on Saturday that will expand on themes we developed in our Session retreat in the fall. I haven't done much with any of that in worship, so I'm going to take the 4 weeks I'm around in Lent (missing the Sunday before Palm Sunday for vacation) and preaching out of that discernment and planning experience using 4 of Luke's parables. Much less "Lenty" than traditional, but I think that's OK some times.

    This week is the mustard seed in Luke 13, and maybe the yeast, too. Haven't totally decided. I'm not at all sure what I'll preach, though, because I think much of it will come out of our actual session on Saturday. The session wrote a parable for our church (and understanding of what God is calling us to do and be in the world) that is garden themed, so the mustard seed parable fit on a number of levels. I'll work with our parable, Jesus' parable, and the event to pull together some sort of sermon!

  2. I'm kicking off the Lenten season with my first sermon for my internship congregation--three weeks into my internship, so I don't feel like I really know the folks to whom I'm preaching yet. One thing I do know-- these folks are really "low church." We're not doing Ash Wednesday at all and that feels a bit foreign to a ritual-lover like me.

    So, it's off to wrap myself around the dramatic tension between Deut's first fruits in the temple and Luke's starvation and temptation in the wilderness... I want to offer them the Lenten gift of gestational, reflective darkness, but I'm not sure yet how to craft the invitation.

  3. She Rev - thanks for the link! The stations have been filed away to be used another year (I hope!).

    And love "Soup & Spirit" name.

    I'm preaching Luke as we head into Lent. Also doing an Ash Wed service with the congregation for the first time. Should be interesting ...

  4. I reluctantly pulled the plug on our Pancake Supper and Mardi Gras Celebration that was planned for tonight because it's been snowing since last night and the roads are terrible. The only good thing is that now I have more time for my Ash Wednesday sermon--yes, that's part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy. We'll have two services tomorrow. And I have a kids' service at 5:30 tomorrow, too.

    I'm toying with the idea of having pancakes after church Sunday since we can't do it tonight. Had to burn the palms on my own though (would've done it tonight), since I have to use the ashes tomorrow!

    Needless to say I haven't given much thought to Sunday's sermon yet, but have to get on it later tonight.

  5. It is Ash Wednesday morning here, tonight’s service, including a very short sermon is ready for tonight. Last year there was no sermon. Also aged care service this afternoon, and I’m pretty much repeating 3 years ago service. Too many things happening this week. I have only been in ministry three and a half years, so being able to repeat is new to me.
    Sunday, looking at Deuteronomy and Luke, and the start of a stewardship series. Current theme is “It isn’t about us/ it is about God”.

  6. I'm doing a supply gig for Ash Wednesday and this coming Sunday, after eleven weeks away from the pulpit. Eek!

    Ash Wednesday will be a short meditation, since there is communion and imposition of ashes, plus a liturgy-heavy service overall. The choir will be singing, which is a whole new experience for me on Ash Wednesday. (I am used to a stripped down pastor-only service with about ten in attendance.)

    Sunday I am focusing on both the OT lesson and the gospel lesson. An article by BBT I found in Christian Century has been very influential. Sermon title: Called Back To Our Senses. So far...

    (formerly CH)

  7. Short homily on Ash Wednesday for me; it's a noontime service that needs to be done in about 45 minutes including Eucharist and imposition of ashes.

    I was talking with a friend about her just-published dissertation. Part of her starting point is that Lent began as a way for the church to support the catechumens by fasting with them and praying for them...a concern for others/community. Over the centuries, it has acquired much more of an "all about me [or me and God]" nature. I find this fascinating, and I will be saying something about it. If only I knew what ;-)

  8. Betsy--
    Thanks for the helpful reminder about the communal disciplines of the Early Church. I've just come up with the image of seeds, newly planted in dark soil, tucked quietly into their bed of dark, fertile muck for the slow, arduous process of germination. Both the OT and Gospel readings are very earthy and both deal with promises of sustenance... hmmm!

  9. Two services tomorrow and I preach at both. FOTW is really helpful and I think I am going to start with Psalm 51. Then again, I don't really know. I was pumped yesterday but had oral surgery this morning that has shot my brain for the day.
    We did pancakes and then I had vestry until 8:00. Thursday is the day this diocese has the renewal of vows service. Most Episcopal Churches do it during Holy Week but our bishop realized that is a week already busy enough for most of us. So we start Lent that way.
    Okay, I had best take FOTW to bed with me. Sunday is too far away to consider.

  10. Presby meeting most of day, Shrove Tuesday Pancake supper, 2 hr nap between.
    Now checking in with my preaching buddies.
    Tomorrow, we will have a reflective service with music and a meditation time. Then of course, ashes.
    I am also using power point to display words on the screen to help us focus on Lent.
    For Sunday, my title is The Temptations, hopefully folks will not think of Motown only!
    Not sure what I am up to with it yet. I am going to have a visual each week during Lent. This week, a large stone to focus, next a ceramic hen. I ahve no idea what I am doing. Looking for brillance

  11. hey Jules - good to see you back! you will rock it on Sunday, I know....

    also loving Soup and Spirit

    ooh, betsey, good point. I've got my childrens time ready - I'm going to be talking about loneliness, and about the kinds of things we do when we're lonely and how even Jesus sometimes got lonely and how he showed us what to do in those times.... anyway, your idea will be a good one to tie it in to the sermon-sermon, i think.

    keep those ideas coming, for Sunday esp....

  12. I have made ashes for tomorrow morning and now just have to remember my dear brother's advice -- "Remember that a small smudge on the forehead is sufficient, even when a fistful square in the mouth is more tempting..."
    And Jules -- good to hear your voice again, missed ya, babe!

  13. Supplying these days... but not for Ash Wednesday. Since the supply work is in smaller congregations... I'll be preaching from the lectionary. This week... I've chosen to preach about Psalm 91. It is a song of comfort... but the edge is that is sounds like God's gonna protect us from everything if we are "saved". That's a problem... because we all know... life has... does... and will continue to throw hardballs at us. I'm moving us past God walking with us now... and during future problems... into God solves the "forever" problem of eternal death/separation from God.

  14. The title 'putting away the alleluias' reminds me of a colleague who actually buries laminated alleluias and then digs them up on Easter Sunday morning!

    We've had pancake races & a pancake party here - but joining with another church for Ash Wednesday, so I have been able to start thinking about Sunday & the temptation of Christ

  15. In our school chapel, we literally box up "Alleluia"--various ways and forms each year--and mark "Do Not Open Until Easter" all over the box. It sits out at each service, and I've often used it one way or another in my Easter preaching. Woe to the children's choir director who tries to get the kids to practice their Easter alleluias during Lent ;-)

    Way ahead of the need, but if anyone wants to think forward (because you need to set up the expectation in advance) of the best of those family Easter sermons was when I privately opened the box ahead of time and took out the alleluias then taped it back up. On Easter, I had the children predict what would be inside; they were all absolutely sure they knew. Instead, of course (you could see where this was going!), it was empty, like the tomb. They got the point, for sure.

    This year the alleluias in the box are in different type faces. I think I may open it on Easter and use those to represent the different voices of rejoicing and surprise on Easter, both the first and now.

    Hmmm...seems I'm a bit ahead of myself here.

  16. So, last year I decided I wanted to "bury" the Alleluia, but since the ground is completely frozen during Lent here (and usually well into the season of Easter), I did it this way:

    1. I made a banner with "Alleluia" in simple letters.
    2. I took a PVC tube and two end caps and spray painted them black.
    3. On T-fig, during the last hymn, we rolled up the banner and put it in the tube. It remained on the altar all through Lent.
    4. SECRETLY! I opened the tube and decorated the banner with flowers, birds, rainbows, spring-type images, then put it back inside.
    5. On Easter, we took the banner out with the kids, and surprise! It was totally different!

    It was such a hit that we're doing it again this year, but this time the kids are doing the banner artwork (thank you Jesus) since now they know what is going to happen!

  17. Oooohhh, Semfem, I like the tube idea! I've used a box for years; maybe next year I'll mix it up a bit with PVC instead.

  18. Good to hear you Jules. Must be scary putting a toe back in the water after 11 weeks - where has that te gone?
    Semfem, love the Alleluia scroll idea and since I'm on children's time, that's perfect. Thanks!
    Not preaching so much now since I have assistance AND students has allowed me to write some reflective readings for holy Week. I'll post them soon on the sermon blog but so glad this sunday's sorted. Thanks, again, semfem.

  19. I'm struggling with the whole temptation of Christ and first fruits, with the theme being God's provision.
    temptation, wilderness, provision ... humanity and divinity ...40 and 40

    Still waiting for inspiration


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