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Friday, February 25, 2011

11th Hour Preacher Party: Don't Worry, Be Happy Edition

I went looking for a Youtube video of Bobby McFerrin performing his 1980's hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy," but couldn't find one that was more than just a still shot of him with the music in the background. However, I did find the following video and, you know, it just may have been even better for our setting. Our struggling 4 member bell choir (in which my husband plays 6-8 bells because he can hold two of the big ones in each of his massive hands) is playing in worship tomorrow, but you can be SURE they are not playing this. Sigh. Wouldn't it be cool?

I wonder what a preacher's version of this part of the Sermon on the Mount would sound like. Don't worry about what you will read or what you will preach or what you will pray. Look at the sermon you wrote that week when there were three funerals, your partner was out of town, and your children were sick. Even then the Holy Spirit had your back and the Word of God was received. Consider the honest prayer of a child that is offered unrehearsed, unprepared. Even then, especially then, God's ears are listening. No, do not worry about your way in, your transition statements, your children's sermon. Strive first for God's will and everything else will come as it should.

What are you worried about? What's pressing today as you are making your preparations for worship tomorrow? What do you need to lay down, so that you can seek first the kingdom of God? The faithful and abundant provision of God is all over these texts and all over our own testimonies. Join the party in the comments and help us encourage each other as we prepare our witness for worship.


  1. Oops, my mistake on that first comment! I'm here unusually early today because I've got a meeting today that is three hours' drive away. I'll be back with the late night crew tonight, most likely. At least I do have some good notes to draw from.

    I'm going in a similar direction to esperanza as she mentioned on Tuesday (totally by coincidence)...working with Matthew and Isaiah, saying that the reason we worry is because we think we have been forgotten...and while the knowledge that we can NEVER be forgotten doesn't keep bad stuff from happening, it does give us a loving and gracious place from which to respond to evil. Working in a little "His Eye is On the Sparrow" as well.

    I'll pick up some breakfast sandwiches and muffins for the party when I get some breakfast to hit the road. Coffee and tea too, of course!

  2. hi! I'm gone most of the day at a confirmation retreat for 8th graders.

    But thought I'd stop in, even though I'm not preaching.

    Nadia Bolz-Weber has a great piece on the reading from Matthew on a site called "The hardest question"; I think it's part of Sparkhouse.

  3. here it is:

    oh well, not embedded. I'll come back and fix it later.

  4. Chuckling to myself as I realize that I am way too anxiety-prone to leave a sermon till Saturday until circumstances absolutely require. So I spent yesterday writing mine and it's waiting for another look later. Not what I had originally planned at all; it turned out to be about anxiety arising from our tendency to put our other desires for wealth -- power, control, security, reputation -- first. I've been teaching Tillich to my college freshmen so faith as ultimate concern is in there.

    I'll post it later if I still think it's ok.

    On the subject of happiness, has anyone read the Dalai Lama's Art of Happiness? My book club is discussing it next week and I admit to having been resistant, as I think the group subtext is that a couple of us are not on their idea of an acceptable timetable for grief. But now I'm kind of wishing I had read it before today.

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  6. I've got coffee, and I'm putting the finishing touches on my sermon. I need to spend most of the day preparing for a deacon workshop that I am leading - it's an annual thing our denomination does. My topic is "Building Community in the Church." So, any ideas on how deacons can help with that?

  7. Chilly, what denomination? We Presbyterians have deacons who should be the basic congregational care -- visiting sick, running the meal ministry, etc. So easy pickings for community building. Since you ask, I'm assuming you're Episcopalian where the title deacon is completely different.

    now time to sort through the notes from Monday after 3 days out of town. I'm continuing Corinthians, although not exactly on the lectionary. I'm doing 1 Cor 5. Title: discipline. Should be interesting. :)

  8. Actually, I'm Disciples of Christ. I asked a couple of our deacons what would be helpful to them. They were clear that they know they are servants! They want some practical information...

  9. Good morning! Glad to see the party is up and rolling. I'm guessing we will have a quieter day than we have had recently since a number of regulars are boarding the boat for BE4 today. Prayers for them as they have a time of renewal and relaxation!

    Thanks for the link, Diane. i'll head over to it in a little bit. We're working on breakfast for the kiddos right now, and it's a little hectic.

    I haven't read that, Robin, but your question certainly makes it intriguing to me.

    Chilly I've got a couple of practical things our deacons do:
    1. Social Sundays - - Once a quarter or so they host a game afternoon for all ages at the church. Real easy, but fun.
    2. Helping Hands - - It sort of acts like a clearinghouse for help in the church. People who are willing to help (for free) with all sorts of random things (raking leaves, vacuuming, changing light bulbs, babysitting sick kids, giving rides, anything really) are on one list the the deacons maintain. When someone needs help with something they call the deacon in charge to see if there's anyone who will do that thing then gives the "need-er" the phone number to call. It's gotten a slow start since people are slow to ask for help, but it's great!
    3. Rides/Driving - - This has turned into one of the main ways we build community because it is what keeps some of our elderly active in the congregation. They can't participate in many things because they can't get to the church, so the deacons are diligent about providing rides and valet parking in the winter months to just about everything possible. It's been great.

    So, welcome everyone here so far. I'll look forward to see some of you when you come back later tonight. I've got a busy morning, but quiet afternoon, so I'm hoping to get some work on the sermon chipped away then.

    LOTS of fresh baked bread at our house compliments of my husband. Help yourself - - beer bread, pumpkin bread, pumpernickel...

  10. Here you go, folks: I brought leftovers of my birthday cake to share! It's an almond sponge cake roll with elderflower chantilly cream filling, recreated from my memory of a long-lost recipe my mother found in a British lady's magazine. Oh, and here's a big pot of oolong tea to go with it, with enough teacups for everyone!

    It's really hard for a person with A.D.D. to write *this* week's sermon-- because every time I try to generate enough anxiety to kick my sermon-writing skilz into high gear, along comes the gospel message, saying... don't worry. As a result, I have a bad case of teflon brain: all the ideas I generate refuse to stick.

    I'm trying to weave together the large-scale issues (international politics, economic distress, state-level political tensions) with the very earthy and personal gospel message. Hmmm. We'll see how it goes...

  11. just back for a minute before I get on the road down to the retreat. It's snowing here, and my tires aren't the best (getting new ones on Monday, I know, bad timing).

    So, I'll be driving cautiously. And I'll see you when I get back in the evening....

  12. Thanks for your rewrite for preachers She Rev! Hit close to home this morning. Received a phone call about another death - that makes #5 for this month (this is how many deaths there were in the congregation for all of last YEAR). Sigh. Needing to hear my own sermon about not worrying what with having just done a funeral on Thursday and 2 more coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Thankful for this supportive community! I have snicker surprise cookies to share - a result of my need to destress last night. And how appropriate, the word verification is stess.

    Dancing with God

  13. Chinese take-out leftovers, anyone? I also have some fabulous penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and sausage that a parish member made. Nothing very breakfast-y though!

    I have a memorial service at 1:00; the homily will be quite short, and I think, I hope, I pray I have in my head what I want to say. Usually I write them out, but this time it just doesn't feel right. No sermon for tomorrow, so it feels like an easy day. Older son is in a parade and I am hoping the clearing in the rain stays this way for at least a few hours.

    MaineCelt, happy birthday and I'll take a piece of that delicious sounding cake :-)

  14. Thanks for getting us going - it's cold for the PNW here today - in the teens - so I'm thinking about those Gals On The Boat and trying not to be too jealous ;)

    Blessings to those of you planning/praying towards funerals.

    goodness, MC, that cake sounds INCREDIBLE, I will take a piece. And I"m having the same problem as you. I intended to write yesterday and even had the time set aside. But my prayer in the morning was for Jesus to remove my anxiety and worry (just for an experiment you know) and it turns out that I hardly have any personality at all without those. So, spent the day kind of aimlessly goofing around.

    I did have a funny anxiety dream last night in which a job interview I'm scheduled to do this week went crazily awry, so the worry is in there somewhere, I guess.

    Some ideas are floating around - might take the dog for a walk and see if I can shake them loose that way. I'll check in later - have a great day everyone!

    PS: word verf is impongle, which is cracking me up for some reason

  15. Sherev - great ideas for deacons btw, and that bread (so many kinds!) sounds delish!

  16. We had a death in our congregation this week. Someone very beloved. He's going to be sorely missed. But he did not want any kind of a service. My pastor told me that for decades his wife came to church without him and he only started when the current pastor started. Funny this title "Don't Worry Be Happy," because I know Harold is happier now, but I'm not. I wanted a service. There's something comforting about crying with friends I think.

    Anyway, I'm not a pastor here, just a contributing pew sitter. And SheRev, thanks for the list of deacon things to do! Those are great ideas. I am going to pass them along.

  17. Good morning, preaching friends. I'm working on Matthew with a touch of Isaiah thrown in. I just love the last part of the Isaiah passage about how God won't forget us, and I think it ties into Matthew. On Working Preacher, the commentator says, "God will take care of you ... so take care of God's justice in the world." That really speaks to me and ties into what the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is about.

    What exactly I'm doing with that remains to be seen...I have a bunch of words on paper without much direction at this point.

  18. PG -- I honored the request for "no funeral" one time, but I told my church folk I'm not doing that again. It was so upsetting for everyone. Including people from the neighborhood who were not even members of the church stopping in to say "why arent you having a memorial for....???" So now, when someone says "no memorial," we at least have a potluck lunch, and tell stories and pray. We need ritual, you know?

  19. Thanks, She Rev, for this post. What a beautiful way to ease into today's sermon-prep time!

    I have leftover Indian food to offer - a delicious chickpea curry and some samosas. That cake sounds pretty amazing, MaineCelt.

    I wrote a sermon on these texts a few years ago and it was one of my all-time faves; it's hard to find a new way to come at the texts now!

    Church BBQ-Mardi Gras event tonight, so I have to get things finished up!

  20. I've been engaging in sermon-writing avoidance by watching movies this morning...something told me that "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" might be inspiring, and it was, but I've not quite brought it all together in my head.

  21. LC - ooo, I love that movie, esp the end :)

    Hey, we might have mixed feelings in this group about psychology in sermons, but i found this article on worry rather helpful.

  22. I actually am sticking with my Tuesday plan, mostly. Semfem, yours sounds better than mine! I've got a bit at the end about working for the kingdom (like RevDrMom describes). But that is probably a different sermon all together. I think I'm trying too hard to tie into "Seek Ye First" that we're singing right after the sermon.

    Children's sermon ideas, anybody?

    Not much in the way of goodies to share around here. Maybe I'll cook supper...

  23. I would have offered some of our bunch pancakes...but we 'et 'em.:-)

  24. Juniper: I so agree. Harold's widow will be bringing a cake for Fellowship hour after church. But I think some formal words would be nice - for us. Greedy me.

    Rev. Dr. Mom, I hear you on: "God will take care of you ... so take care of God's justice in the world." This week I heard a radio show host asking "Who would you have lunch with living or dead." He said Jesus and would ask "how can you watch all the suffering in the world and not do anything about it?" I was jumping up and down in my car, yelling at the radio, "HEY can YOU watch it all and not do anything about it??? That IS the point dude!" It seems the world leans to this unrealistic sense of entitlement and harbors anger at God for not fixing what we are responsible for. That'd be a good angle for a sermon. With humor, of course, lest the congregation throw cabbage at you!

    Esperanza: Children's sermon on "seek ye first" about something based on St. Francis' sermons to the animals. Ask the kids to be different animals and ask them what they eat, where they get it, where they sleep. Then ask "You mean you DON'T have indoor plumbing or a WII or a big TV set? Goodness, what do you DO all day?" Just a thought.

  25. I'm back from the pottery studio. I am in no way an artist, but my daughter and I went to a class where she could make her own finger labyrinth. I have made two before, and this time she wanted to do it herself. It's kind of fun to hang with the big girl (almost 6) by herself.

    Now I'm waiting for my husband to take her and our son (almost 4) to a play at our local theater. I had hoped to hold the baby off from a nap until they left, but that isn't happening. She's down now. My dilemma - - work on the sermon as planned or lie down here for just a little nap (yeah, I've heard that one before).

    MC, that birthday cake sounds aweomse. I hope there's a virtual piece left!

    Hope your drive was safe, Diane.

    Anonymous, prayers are being offered for you in a busy draining time! My big funeral month was November last year - 3 in 20 days. It's what we do, but gee is it exhausting on a number of levels!

    I agree, Pres Gal, that WE need the service even if the deceased does not. Juniper what a great way around their wishes you have discovered. I think that honors the community's experience very well.

    Thanks parodie. Glad you're here. The idea for the opening came from my experience of trying to preach from the Luke version of this teaching last fall. I found my stress over trying to uncover my sermon direction rather ironic!

    Well, I think a short nap will win. My eyes are very droopy.

  26. I LOVE the children's sermon idea Pres Gal. Shoot! I wish it were my turn!!!

  27. Here in my la la...not often does the sermon seem more attractive on a Saturday afternoon!

  28. Presby Gal, you're on a roll.

    I took a nap while my little ones napped, too. Biggest one is in her big-girl bed for the first nap time, so it took a while for her to go to sleep.

    Probably won't be back till they are in bed tonight.

  29. The nap won here. Baby's waking up so I will probably be gone for a while, too

  30. Presby Gal, I am stealing your radio host rant. Love it!

  31. Wow, it's quiet here today. I guess that's what happens when folks go cruisin'

    All done, with a healthy dose of procrastination on FB along the way. We'll see how it preaches tomorrow.

    Happy writing everyone. The HS has your back!

  32. As I returned home from the memorial service today, I was reflecting on this very same topic of people who don't want a service. Two things occur to me. First is that maybe some of them have been to long/excluding/hypocritical funeral liturgies along the way, and what they really mean is that they don't want that kind of service and they don't know that there are other ways to go about it. Second (and this is what I was experiencing as I thought about the service today) is that a funeral feels so much like a door closing. We can use all the faith language we want, but when the service is over and the congregants have gone home from the reception, the close family is left with such a sense of "that's all, folks." It's over, it's done with. It isn't, really, but it can seem like that. And maybe some people, imagining their own death, don't want to allow for an occasion that creates the sense of "It is finished." Even dead, they don't want the door to be closed, and deep down they think that without a service they stay "alive" in some sense that the finality of a funeral doesn't permit. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, the service was wonderful; this was a joyous, lovely woman who died peacefully at an old age. Her son and daughter in law are professional musicians, as well as active church members, so we had fabulous and appropriate music :-)

    I am soon off to a 50th b'day dinner for a friend at a fancy restaurant...or at least it looks like one from the website. I am hoping that by wearing dressy pants and top and blazer I will hit it right and not look ridiculous if I haven't! I'm so used to wearing clericals on many occasions that I choke up a bit when I have to figure out what to wear!

    Blessings on your writing; I'll check back in with the late night crew.

  33. I'm very much struggling with my sermon, despite chewing on it for a week. I'm hoping that by the time I'm done writing it I will have found my actual thesis point.:-(

  34. Hey Betsy,
    Hope you are having a good evening out. Great reflections on the funeral thing. The one I have heard most often is they dont want people to "make a fuss." But the truth is (at least in my experience) there's so much more fuss in explaining why and how there's no memorial that it doesnt really work.

    Had a fun afternoon playing in the snow with my boy - have a workshop-y type outline for the sermon (teaching some practical anti-worrying techniques tomorrow) and now have some emails to tackle before heading back to it.

    HOpe you had a good nap, Sherev. :) Mmmm, nap sounds very good but (at 5:30 in the afternoon, for me at least) quite dangerous!

  35. Girls are in bed (thank goodness for early bedtimes), and I'm back at it. I have a beginning and a middle, and the end goes to someone else's sermon. Now looking for the end of *my* sermon.

  36. I've reading along all day as I finished up a week in New York City. I was there attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, primarily NGO parallel event workshops.

    That and I spent 3.5 hours sitting in LaGuardia I'm home and exhausted, but stopping in to say hey and wish you all well as you prepare to break open the word tomorrow.

  37. Betsy, I agree with Juniper. I think you've hit a lot of the funeral stuff square on the head. And maybe in addition to the person not wanting others to have the door closed, maybe there's even some anxiety for themselves that once that door is closed they'll be gone and forgotten.

    LutheranChik - - I know that feeling. Hang in there. The Spirit is coming. I'm sure of it!

    Hey esperanza - - I'll take that extra ending off your hands since I don't have anything yet. I could just write a beginning and middle to match your ending!

    So, my kiddos headed to bed later than usual, and we'll see how long the baby stays down right now. She wasn't nursed to sleep so I don't know how deep her sleep really is right now. And forgive me if this gets too personal, but even though I'm not preaching it I started to think a little about that Isaiah nursing God image. As one who is still in the middle of this stage with my bambino I was thinking about it in a very human, bodily way. A nursing mom can't forget her baby even if she WANTS to because after some amount of time even if your mind doesn't remember, your body does, sometimes even painfully. It's not something I'd preach in mixed company (go ahead and call me repressed, I can handle it), but in the right setting, I'd totally go for it. God's actual LONGING, painful-without-it, physical desire to feed us and nurture us.

    Just a random thought. Now I need to get on to my sermon. A (non-religious) children's book I read with my daughter this week has some hints of worrying only about ourselves and our needs instead of striving for God's kingdom together. I might see if I can use the story, expand on it even, as a runny illustration for the sermon.

  38. I don't know what a runny illustration is, she rev.

    But I had exactly the same train of thought with the nursing mother passage. My little one is down to nursing only twice a day, but thinking about when she was an infant, absolutely. I am similarly repressed, too!

    That's not my extra sermon ending, though.

  39. I'm back from dinner with a couple of friends and am getting ready to call it a night. I don't know what it was about this Sunday's lectionary scripture, but I found "sermonizing" it to be much harder than usual. I'll be glad when it's preached and 'done and dusted,' as a friend likes to say.

  40. Don't know if this will help anyone, but I also was thinking with the Isaiah text, the part with our names inscribed on God's hands, of the Toy Story movies, and how Woody has "Andy" written on the bottom of his boot.

    I'm calling it a night, I think. Good luck to everyone still hard at work.

  41. Ready for some late night tweaking - guess I'll post tomorrow.

    On the funeral subject -- my father is notorious for his resistance to dealing with death. I managed to extend my last stepmother's funeral to 40 minutes and the same for my grandmother by insisting on some music and eulogies. (VERY nonreligous family and yet among our best friends are Ursuline nuns. One of the nuns and I put my gm's service together and she read and preached on a very appropriate passage from the Book of Wisdom. I mentioned to her later that it's not part of the Protestant Bible and she said, "I figured you're the only one in your family who would know that.)

    Anyway, my father managed to pull off a PRIVATE funeral for my gm and thereby to hurt a great many people. She was 100 and the last of her circle, but his generation was mostly alive and well in our small town and wanted to say good-bye and support the rest of us.

    I remember wishing that he had a pastor to read the riot act to him.

  42. Hee hee. A runny illustration is what happens when you're not paying attention to what you're typing. A running illustration was what I meant to type, meaning one that I carry throughout the whole sermon. Oops!

    OK. Really. This time I will get started and not play Sudoku. Really.

  43. So here's a somewhat random question. I think I will probably end up reading this whole children's book, broken into pieces throughout my sermon. You know that copyright stuff at the front of a book that talks about how it can't be reproduced? Does that mean I can't post my sermon? Or does it mean only reproductions and storing the actual book with layout and everything? I'm guessing it means the text alone, too, but just thought I'd ask. I mean, I doubt someone will come after me or anything, but I like to think I'm doing the legal thing with other people's copyrights.

    (Really? This is how far I'll go to procrastinate. Just right the dang sermon, SheRev!)

  44. Not sure, She Rev...I'm finally back, but the long drive on slippery roads and lack of sleep have me fuzzy-headed. Slightly bummed because I was excited to write this sermon, but I don't know if I can do it right now.

  45. Welcome back, semfem. That kind of driving is exhausting. I'm going to be around (hopefully writing at some point) for the next 90 minutes, and then I'll hit the hay before doing my real writing.

    I'm feeling sort of the same as you. I was never REALLY excited to write this one, but was glad when I finally had my idea. Now turning my idea into a sermon is less and less thrilling.

  46. So, I've got 835 words, about half of which are not mine, but the children's book I'll be reading throughout my sermon. I hope this works like I think it will. It's what I've got now, and it's what I'm leaving until the morning. The basic outline is there. I just need to fill it in with words when I get up. I'm glad to be heading to bed before midnight since my morning will start with writing at about 4:30 a.m.

    Blessings on all who last longer than me. Blessings on everyone who shares God's Word tomorrow!

  47. Ugh. Fell asleep. Now need to either start writing, or get a few more hours of sleep and then start writing. And prepare a Confirmation lesson (just remembered that one again). blaaaaaaargh.

  48. SheRev, I think that using the text, especially more than a single quote, could be dicey. I know from a copyright lawyer friend that I can scan in a book and use it with the laptop and projector in a service, but I can't use any part of it outside the service/non-profit presentation. I love your idea, though, so I hope it goes well.

    The dinner was lovely, with fabulous food served at a fabulous restaurant...and I was appropriately dressed :-) I was there 4 hours and hardly noticed the time passing!

    Peace to all of us tomorrow.

  49. Oooh! Thanks Betsy! I'll skip posting this one, then. Thanks also for the info about scanning for worship. I always assumed that would be illegal, too, so that is good news. Glad your dinner (and attire!) went well.

    Hope you're hanging in there, semfem.

    I'm back after a restless few hours of sleep. It was more than I usually get, but the baby was coughing in my ear through the monitor during most of it. I'm shocked that she never really woke all the way up, though, which I guess is the bright side of that. We'll see how much time she gives me now, though.

  50. Go She Rev, go!

    I've been alternately dozing and typing here...almost to the end...time for my killer ending illustration, I hope! Then quick Confirmation planning and off we go. CAN.NOT fall asleep now.

  51. You can do it. Stay awake, semfem!

  52. Confirmation lesson planned in record time! Now to quickly proof the sermon and print everything out! Adrenaline is kicking in even though I'm still tired.

    Mad dash for it, She Rev!

  53. 1218 words and I'm done! Now to print and then shower and get ready for the day. I hope you finished, She Rev!

    Blessings on all pondering, preaching, and proclamation this day.

  54. Great job, semfem! I'm close, very close. I'm at 1400-ish words which is still a little short for me, but I'm not quite down. I'll get to about 1800, I bet, which is what I've been aiming for lately (trying to shorten things up a bit). Kids are stirring, so I'm going to get there sooner rather than later!


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