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Saturday, February 25, 2012

11th Hour Preacher Party: Heavenly Signs

Welcome to Lent 1 and its preaching possibilities!  

We look up at rainbows and doves. 

We hear voices from the clouds.  

The faithful are baptized, build altars, and "are eager to do what is good." [1 Peter 3:13]

For those who come seeking heavenly signs of God's ways, and yet are faced with a blank screen, a Sunday morning deadline, and a sense of urgency, we pray to the Lord.

Welcome, preachers and those who walk with us from Saturday into Sunday!

This is your place to gather, to create, to snack, to laugh, to pray, and to make a new friend or two.  

The coffee is always fresh and hot!  The snack table is open for your goodies.

I found this nugget of preaching inspiration to share:

We are especially prone, in the church, to concentrate on what we are doing or not doing in our relationship with God or, for that matter, what we are doing (or not doing) in the world. One of the tasks of the pastor and preacher is to call us back, to remind us that it's not all about us, but about God. It's about what God is doing and has done not only here and now, but in times long ago and in a future we cannot even dimly see. 
[Kathryn Matthews Huey in Sermon Seeds]

What is God doing in your world today, dear preacher?   


  1. Good morning! Our wilderness is a snowy one, this morning, and I am happy to share the chocolate-covered ginger and blueberries my Sweetie gave me: a pre-breakfast birthday treat!

    So, I'm spending my birthday writing about wilderness, wild beasts, and angels...exploring the need for wilderness and acknowledging that many folks are already there, wandering and wondering and wrestling.

    Yesterday I re-read Madeleine L'Engle's book, "Many Waters," hoping it would inspire me to grapple with the Ark/Rainbow text. Not so much, but it was a fun read.

    My two main threads are: 1) The rainbow covenant was with ALL of Creation, not just Noah, not just God's special people, not just humans, but ALL enfleshed Creation. 2) Baptism and Wilderness are necessary compliments, just as wild beasts and angels are necessary compliments.

    That's what I've got so far...oh, and an illustration involving a wild midnight Coyote sing-along.

    What's everybody else up to?

  2. I'm going much the direction I described on Tuesday, except now I know more about the radio show "Desert Island Discs." My notion is that in those forty days Jesus called on his spiritual resources, including the Psalms, and in particular the one we'll be reading. I made cute little booklets that include a quote from Mark 1 and some reflection questions on the front, and inside and on the back three different versions of Psalm 25:1-10. Those will be available for people to take home and look at during the week. I'll do something similar for the next four Sundays, too, although I won't limit myself to the Psalm as a preaching text each week.
    Meanwhile, as ever, I have a meeting at church at 9 (this one to finish writing a vision statement) and a couple of other church commitments, but I hope to be back here and writing by noon. The sermon is about 1/3 written and has a direction, so hopefully I won't be looking at the late nights I had the past two weeks. I'm trying very hard to get underway earlier in the week, and this time it seemed to work.

  3. I'm also celebrating my birthday (DH and oldest daughter have just gone to procure an OTT cake !) and I'm trying to wrap up. Lunch will be butternut squash soup with perhaps chili and coconut...

    I think I have a sermon about the link between baptism and wilderness - that wildernesses aren't just bad, because the Spirit leads us there and it is there we meet God. (Well, I hope the full version makes more sense than that.)

    I'm not going to print yet, because I want to let things "settle" a bit - and I think I need to hear the concept of it being about God not us. So there may be some rewriting later...

    blessings to all

  4. Happy Day to the Birthday Preacher Gals!!! I assume this means cake for everyone?

  5. Happy Birthday, Alison and MaineCelt! So glad you are sharing your day with us.

    Martha, sounds like you are well on your way this week. I like the idea of having something to take home each week as an expectation that spirituality is not just a Sunday thing.

    In honor of our RevGal birthdays, it's
    "All You Can Eat" Cake Day
    here at the Preacher Party. Help yourselves to your favorite kind of cake. And have some of those those delicious chocolate-covered ginger blueberries and some hot Fair Trade coffee.

  6. Looking at Baptism as a parallel to Holy Week, and as a repeated process of making a decision to follow Jesus a little more (Palm Sunday), letting go a little more (Good Friday), being transformed a little more (Easter). Lather, rinse, repeat.

  7. My sermon is on the importance of the desert in shaping who we are. I'm not at all sure how effective it is -- I have done so much reading about the desert experience, solitude, the desert fathers and mothers, etc. over the past three years that it's been difficult to figure out how to distill it for people who have most likely never considered it.

    I can start with a humorous story. The local paper prints a directory on Fridays with all the churches' texts and sermon titles -- (life in the country is different!) -- and the editor called our contact person because she was sure that she had my title wrong. "Practicing the Desert." So I have an introduction about the concept being a baffling one.

  8. Oops! I jumped the cake gun and ate more than I should have yesterday - carrot cake, though, so it was good for me, right?

    I am going to ignore everything but the gospel this week. I like Mark's bare bones wilderness story because it allows us to wonder what Jesus could possible have been tempted by! I'm going to reference that great youtube piece where the devil is the spitting image of Jesus and talk about how our struggle is rarely with others so much as it is with ourselves.

    I've been thinking about how Jesus must have wrestled with how his divinity and his humanity were supposed to play out in his ministry. Too divine and people would merely fear him. Too human and they might ignore him altogether. We have already seen this struggle in the story of the healing of the leper when the divine side is appealed to and the human side takes the hit by being limited in where he could go.

    I haven't a clue whether any of this makes sense. Meanwhile, have you all heard of Lent Madness? It's and you can vote for who is more saintly. So far, Lancelot Andrewes lost to Joan of Arc and Jerome is beating out John Patteson (an obscure but holy Anglican bishop in Micronesia). Brackets and even a final four included. :-)

  9. I am preaching Psalm 25. The sermon title is "40 mph". My earlier-in-the-week thought was these forty days are to slow down from 79 mph to 40 mph. Now, I am not sure that is the direction the Spirit is leading.

    Using the path image in the psalms. I'l have some teaching words about LEnt as I have found this congregation has heard so many churchy words without knowing why are what they actually mean.

  10. In my world, carrot cake counts as a vegetable! But then, I call dark chocolate "medicine" for its heart health qualities.

    Good morning Robin, Cindi, and Margaret!

    I am so intrigued by all of your thoughtful approaches to this week's texts.

    Margaret, I wonder if it is that divine/human struggle in us (and around us?) that is the very stuff that Lenten spirituality is made of.

    Leading people into "practice" during the Lenten season makes sense to me, Robin, and I think it's what many are hoping for.

    Cindi, what a concise and powerful way to talk about the spiritual journey of our lives.

    Today also happens to be the 18th birthday of the high school senior next door neighbor for whom I have been (until today) the legal guardian. His mother died in November; his father three years earlier. I am pretty sure that, though the legal responsibilities are now gone, we are still going to be in each others' lives. My family has pretty much adopted him, and vice versa, and we are all delighted!

    Enjoying some delicious German Chocolate birthday cake over here. What's your favorite?

  11. Hi, Purple! For what it's worth, I think people will really understand that way of talking about slowing down. Like me, they may have gotten a few speeding tickets along the way! And I would love to hear more about the "churchy words" you are working with.

  12. I am preaching on the Psalm. The title is "God's Loving Paths" (from Kate Huey's sermon seeds), but so far I don't have much direction. Maybe something that includes raw emotion, letting God take the lead, struggles within/with ourselves...still very loosey-goosey notes and thoughts.

    I think I'll take a shower and see if that helps!

  13. Good Morning all, Allison - I think you have a good direction which makes sense to me as one who has lived that experience....

    I have pages of notes and half a dozen books open and marked and even an illustration from SheRev as told by Fred Craddock about Ben Hooper, former governor of Tennessee..."Being a Child of God" may be my title...anyway, I have way too many resources and no clear direction, yet.

    Plus my being is half here in Michigan and half in NYC where I will arrive on Monday and spend the week leading workshops and attending other workshops for the 56th annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. It's exciting to go back again, and very distracting as I try to get everything done...

    oh, and birthday cake is always good! carrot, chocolate, any variety.

  14. Oh,and Sharon, I may also be using that idea from Kathryn Matthews Huey. I often find nuggest the fuel my sermon from her.

  15. I decided to go ahead and post mine. It's a little long because I'm introducing the whole idea of spiritual practice. And I'm not sure that it's clear at all. But I have a long drive , a hospice visit to make and a church dinner to attend, so I need to be finished.

  16. Also, here is a quote from Jan Richardson that I find useful: Jan Richardson:
    Removing ourselves from at least some of our usual routines, for moments or for months, can shift the way that we view our life. It doesn’t require taking ourselves to a literal wilderness in the manner Jesus did. But his sojourn there reminds us there is wisdom in knowing when to turn toward a place, a person or a practice that can help us what we cannot always sense under our own power. This wisdom lies at the heart of Lent. These days challenge us to take on a practice of give one up, so that we can look at our lives in a different way. As Jesus knew, going into the barren and uncomfortable places isn’t about proving how holy, we are or how tough, or how brave. It’s about letting God draw us into the place where we don’t know everything, don’t have to know everything, indeed may be emptied of nearly everything we think we know. And thereby we become free to receive the word, the wisdom, the clarity about who we are and what God is calling us to do.

    What’s discernment like for you? When you have a choice to make, when something needs sorting and sifting, what do you do Do you have someone who listens to you, listens so well to both you and God that they help you hear God’s longing for you…

  17. This morning I am up and out because I want to for a geocaching event! Its CITO (Cache In Trash Out) and only scheduled for 2 hours.

    Whenever I come back to the sermon prep part, I'm looking at Genesis. On Thursday, in my head when I couldn't write any thoughts down, it sounded great!

    Maybe some of those thoughts will come back as I help clean up some of God's creation this morning. I'll have my geocaching book & pen so I can write them down if they do.

  18. Good Morning All! Happy Birthday birthday gals. Hope you have a good week in New York, Terri.

    Not more than a focus yet and a four-hour deanery meeting before I can sit down and write. Margaret, I, too, am focusing on Mark and the temptation in the wilderness. How can I find the u-tube video you described?

  19. Happy Birthday, Alison and MaineCelt. No cake for me -- it's Lent till I can break my fast for tomorrow. I also am going with water, baptism, and covenant with all creation. But I am a bit rocked this afternoon as I went to a New Wine conference this morning on renewal. It was extremely powerful and moving. Slain in the Spirit -- I've only heard about it before. (I'm a pretty conventional Anglican.) Not sure how it is all affecting me yet, but I'm sure God will show me in God's good time. Will I change my sermon for tomorrow? I don't think so. It's all a bit strange.

  20. I'm off lectionary for the Lent. My synod is doing a book study and I decided to preach on the book (Fearless by Max Lucado). It's my first time using sermon notes and an outline created by someone else. Still, I liked his chapter titles and decided to give it a go.

    And I got a head start yesterday. I have a council meeting this morning and want to spend time with my family this afternoon. So, I've posted already. Comments would be greatly appreciated. I'm not sure the ending works (my usual problem!).

    Now for something completely different...(lectionary-wise): Why Are We Afraid?

  21. Hi there everyone - Ugh, just realized I double scheduled for Sun afternoon - HATE it when I do that, so starting the day feeling all discombobulated. However I DO have cake (angel food! with whip cream from a can!) so hopefully soon I will stop kicking myself and join the party.

    Doing a series this Lent called Seven Vices/Virtues and the theme this week is envy/love. But since I'm kind of introducing the concept, I'm going to talk about temptation in a most general way and how we all spend time in the wilderness the wild animals and angels of our own souls. Or something like that.

    I have nothing written yet, and also I'm supposed to be at this justice conference today, but I guess I'm just gonna pop into the middle and sort of check it out.

    Breathing, breathing, breathing....

    I'll check in later when I'm freaking out less :b

  22. Welcome, Ramona, Pat, RevAlli, Vicar, Terri and Beth!

    Pat, powerful Spirit happenings, and powerful words from Jan, Terri.

    All of these offerings are fuel for my as-yet very raw sermon ingredients. So, I'm going to stir it up and see how it's cooking.

    I do love the Lenten season. I don't love the disoriented (wilderness) experience. Essential and good? Perhaps. An answer to my prayers? Yeah, probably, but not fun or tidy. There, I said it.

    More coffee anyone?

  23. Hi, Juniper! Do report back to us about what you find at the conference. Great idea for a Lenten series!

  24. Wow! The party is in full swing already! Good morning, all, and happy birthday to our birthday gals!

    I am preaching Mark and have a start in my head but not on paper yet. I am trying to put the other versions of the wilderness story out of my head and just focus on Mark's two stark verses. Right now I'm playing with some tensions I find interesting - wild beasts as friendly or fearsome? being alone lonely or helpful solitude? - and thinking through the relationship between fear and temptation. The Lenten Facebook group I started (after reading Pastor Cherie's great comment on AtM a couple of weeks ago) has offered some really rich reflections on this text from a variety of perspectives. I'm hoping to let that dialogue nurture my thinking today.

    Okay. Late start here, so I better get on it! Looking forward to hanging with y'all today.

  25. omg, I love birthdays. You can bet I'll be back at this party often for singing and cake and presents. :-) Happy birthday to all of you who are celebrating today, and happy unbirthday to the rest!

    We are doing a series this Lent called "Heart and Seek"--based on Psalm 119.10 "I will seek you with my whole heart" and with the idea that God is often "hidden in plain sight." (yes, that's in quotes because it's sort of the theme phrase...) The sanctuary is decorated very sparsely with 40 crosses hidden throughout the space and with a large cross up front where a banner would be, but behind a sort of frosted window (as in "through a glass dimly"). Most interestingly, the big cross that normally hangs up front has been taken down. So...interesting.

    Because of this series we are off lectionary all but week this week I'm working on Mary and Martha and the theme of "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!" I'll also be introducing our congregational Lenten discipline of not having programming and only having essential meetings during Lent--we'll be spending our time with our families, seeking God in the everyday, rather than driving back and forth to church for things. Bright side: no youth group or confirmation class or midweek bible studies or non-essential (aka non-session) meetings for me. Downside: figuring out how to resource people to use this fast for their spiritual good and not as "excellent, 3 extra hours for running errands and getting to soccer practice." I can't control what people do with the time and the mental/spiritual space, but I hope to lead them toward "the better part" of Mary.

    Anyway, this sermon will include two Carrie Newcomer songs (covered by our excellent band)--first Mary's song "I Meant To Do My Work Today" and later the song I hope Martha learns to sing "Holy As A Day Is Spent." How do we first let go of our worried/distracted state so we can practice Mary's way, then take that focus and inner silence into our everyday tasks, so that things like laundry look like sacraments rather than chores? Because of the songs, I have only 600-800 words to write, so I need to be concise.

    That was the longest comment ever. Probably longer than my sermon.

  26. Great stuff here already! I'm hitting Genesis with the sermon title 'Consequential Covenant'. I want to hit on how we're accountable to God even with the grace thing.

    I'm opening with the illustration of the Bull Mastiff you can find on YouTube who got into his master's trash. How do they know? Because the trash lid is still stuck around his neck. He looks forlorn and is clearly forgiven - wondering how often God looks at us and we look back forlorn, but with the original sin trash lid stuck around our neck.

    Or something...

    Leaving soon for The Boy's last basketball game and then he's home so I won't be back to it until this evening. Grateful for the work I managed to do on this thing through the week, but I think it's going to be a grinder.

  27. Good Morning all, and a special good morning to those who celebrate birthdays this week...especially your neighbour Sharon! Snowy and cold here this morning and I've got a full day and an empty pantry in front of me. The best I can do is toast and peanut butter and a nice hot latte.

    I think I'll be working with the Katherine Huey comment, thanks for that! It's always great when you find someone else who has said what you wanted to say so beautifully. I was planning on pretty much sticking to the Genesis text, but I may talk about wilderness as a place where we can reconnect with God.

    Thanks for the inspiration, I'll check in later, maybe with a sermon to post!

  28. Not preaching tomorrow (thought I'd love to get into the awful textual mess in Peter), but I have a panful of toasted almonds to contribute to the snack table. They are my Lenten nibble.
    SNOW here -- went out all virtuous with my shovel and was chased back into the house, basically, by my good neighbours who could see no point to my shoveling when they already had their snowblower up and roaring.
    So I've set out the sourdough starter, and added "biscuits" to today's list.
    Just heard from our HoS that one of the Mothers-in-Zion died this morning about 5. Great sadness, but relief that her travails are behind her.

  29. May I just say how grateful I am for this party, though I am an infrequent attendee. Such a treasure trove of wisdom and creativity; one could probably set up a whole year's worth of sermons just from the cornucopia of ideas offered by one preaching party!

    My sermon has finally focused and is just about finished. I'm ruminating on how easily we connect to the emotions of Psalms even without the exegesis we use for other texts to preach on them, suggesting Lent as a time to dig down and expose our own raw selves to God (adding "PEP" to our Lent: Penitence, self-Examination, Preparation for the resurrection), and proposing using the Psalms as our "prayer partners" through the Lenten journey this year. I'm hoping to offer printouts of the full Psalm from each Sunday in Lent for people to take home.

    It's windy, sunny, and snowy at the same time, here, and my 11 year old son is on his second nap of the day, which has certainly aided in my sermon-writing. He's had a rough few weeks emotionally, so I'm sure the extra rest is probably needed, and has most certainly fed into my connection with the "cry of the heart" offered by this Psalm.

    Headed into the conclusion...may the Spirit inspire us all!

    P.S. The YouTube video about Jesus referenced earlier is called "40." There are a couple versions people have done, but my favorite features music by Blue Man Group. The illustrations themselves are by Si Smith.

  30. Good morning all, and a Happiest of Birhdays to those who are celebrating this week! Umm..cakes! I am back at preaching after a rather longish break. Amamzing how one gets out of the rhythm. I am amazed how this "little" Gospel has led me down soooo many rabbit trails. I must have at least five starts...and now finish. Went with the idea that we all have wildernesses and usually we tuck and roll and hide or turn up the volume so as not to hear Satan or the beasts and then miss the voice of God and the angels as well. Encouraging some Lenten time of slow and quiet in our wilderness places to allow ourselves to be known as the beloved ones...or something like that. I'm thinking some folks will get it and others will wonder who ever gave this girl a pulpit. But there it is and it's done! So helping myself to some coffee then off to do the rest of the Saturday requireds.

  31. It's been an exciting day so far. I got stuck in the snow in the church parking lot, got unstuck again, then came back to the coast where there is no snow to speak of. Weird.
    Trying to get my head back in the sermon game, and my first line of offense is coffee. Plenty of coffee.

  32. Greetings to Kate, Lady Father, Crimson, Kathryn, Earthchick, and Teri!

    How about some lunch for anyone who is hungry? I can offer you some jambalaya that I made last night for company when I wanted a taste of Louisiana, which is where I was this time last week.

    I'm playing with covenant, rainbows and how finding the way from "lost" to "found" -- realizing that there is a lack of focus there!

    Thanks to all for great inspiration and snacks -- for the coffee, Martha, and the toast and peanut butter and latte, LF!

  33. I'm declaring myself finished. I fear that what I have is still a little "ho hum" but I also think it is time to stop. (2700 words - our congregation feels short-changed if you do less than 20 minutes, also the children's Sunday School classes run in parallel, and we time them to around 30 minutes.)

    If anyone needs some afternoon sustenance, my birthday cake was layers of milk and white chocolate mousse on dark chocolate cake - with raspberries on top. Its a wicked and wonderful as it sounds - and there is plenty left to share ! (apparently not giving up chocolate for lent this year !)

  34. Good afternoon preachers! And happy birthday to the birthday gals! MaineCelt, chocolate covered ginger and blueberries sound even better than cake!

    I've been thinking a lot about the old testament reading -- Noah's ark is so often perceived as a sweet kids' story but it definitely has a dark side and it also shows us a God who is not the vengeful God that is the OT stereotype. So I'm going somewhere in that direction...we'll see where the Holy Spirit leads me. I feel like I've preached Lent just enough for it to start to feel like a rut and I want to avoid that if I can. (MaineCelt, I thought about Many Waters too but not sure if I'll use it.)

    It's VERY windy here today, and I'm praying we won't loose power--I think I'm spooked after having had two major power outages in the fall.

    I have a pot of salsa soup on the stove if anyone needs lunch....delicious and low on WW points!

  35. Checking in here during the girls' nap--er, quiet in your room--time. It's a solo parenting weekend that last through Tuesday, so I'm trying to pace myself.

    Filling in at hubby's pulpit tomorrow. MANY more people that I am used to, so I'm a bit more nervous than usual. Perhaps having a sermon would take the edge off? I'm working on the wilderness aspect of the gospel, and have most of an idea where I'm going. When we are in the wilderness, we know that Jesus has been there too. I just have to get from here (title, scripture, date and blinking cursor) to there.

    I have some fantastic, if I do say so myself, whole wheat naan bread homemade pizza from last night. Margherita version with tomatoes and basil, or plain cheese. Without Daddy at home, we have lots to share!

  36. I have a draft, but the end needs work as do the transitions. Nonetheless I am heading over to the church to work on the Lenten program liturgy for the Wed. night after I return from's almost done, but as a result I keep thinking it is done, which is a very dangerous thought....back in a bit....

  37. Sounds delicious, esperanza!
    The wind is HOWLING here, and the house feels cold despite a generous heat setting. I'm wearing a shawl and fingerless gloves, which makes me feel I should be dozing in a rocking chair, granny-like.
    Maybe a little more coffee...

  38. A couple of quotes I thought I might use but have not, from "The Desert An Anthology for Lent"

    "But the desert is not merely a place. It is a type of Christian experience. The vast emptiness and silence of the desert stand as symbols of the desolation, the isolation, to which some are condemned at periods of their life as an inescapable part of their journey. The desert as both a place and experience becomes associated, therefore, with journeying; with testing; with seeking another country; a promised land." (pg 15)

    "Deserrt spirituality is a spirituality of struggle, which is inveitable as we seek to know and to journey into ourselves, to face the demons in the depths of our persobalities. It is a struggle with the apparent absence of God and a struggle in the darkness of our own empitness and insufficiency" (David Prail, pg. 55)


    "Christianity does not ask us to live in the shadow of the cross, but in the fire of its creative action" (Teilhard de Chardin, pg. 63), for what they are worth, my offering today...

  39. Allison, wow, great birthday cake.

    I've got words on a document, not sure it is a sermon. Letting it rest. Next on the list: taxes. Ugh!!!

  40. Things are not going well over here, y'all. Up till now, all I'd written was an opening paragraph. And I just erased it.

    I feel like I have this stuff that is waiting to be written/said, but it is stored in a locked safe, and I am standing at the lock, trying to figure out the combination.

  41. earthchick, I have a similar problem. I have two sentences, neither of which belong anywhere near the beginning...if I had a beginning, I know it would all come out and be brilliant (or at least preachable). Instead I'm staring at the screen begging for an opening.

    Or flipping back and forth between the blank screen, this blog, and facebook.
    If only that were the combination...

  42. I'm off lectionary if/when I need to be this Lent. I'm working my way through spiritual practices that help us follow God who is "on the loose" (my Epiphany theme). This week is fasting (paired with the Epiphany sermon on casting out demons). I'm using the Isaiah passage about the fast God chooses and Matthew's version of the 40 days in the desert since it mentions fasting. I'll get to the Matthew 6 stuff on fasting, too, but most of all I think I will do a lot of teaching of spiritual practices/disciplines this season, so I'll take a look at how fasting has been is used in Scripture historically, traditionally, spiritually and invite folks to try a fast of God's choosing this Lent. In a nutshell. I think it's more interesting than that sounds.

    So, if you're interested in adding to my thoughts, here's a questions I've put a few different places on FB - -

    Friends who fast, in Lent or any other time, religious or not, why do you do it and how do you decide what you will cut out? (I know some folks choose to "take on" a new thing for Lent. Not a bad idea, but for the purpose of this question I'm wondering specifically about things/reasons people give up, sacrifice, or cut out.)

  43. Hi again! esperanza, I like your thinking -- somewhere, Frederick Buechner says that the essence of the Gospel is "Kilroy was here"... feel free to throw that into the mix if it helps!!!

  44. I've tweeked...and posted, "40 m.p.h.".

    Sharon, my favorite cake: German Chocolate (three layers of course)

  45. I am relieved to say I have a draft. After two tough Saturdays in a row, this is very good news for me, and for everyone who has to talk, chat or email with me when that is not the case. :-P

    I'm going to let it alone for an hour, then go over it again.

    Well 48 minutes. You know, the length of an episode of Downton Abbey.

  46. Well, I have a draft posted: The Wisdom of Wilderness

    I'll be around shortly to read yours!

  47. Hello, sisters, getting here late this week - been at an overnight training event. I'm glad there is so much cake around.
    We're doing an all age service to explore Lent. We'll be putting away the alleluias and "resurrecting" the Chrismon tree which has now been pared down into a cross and will accompany us through Lent - I have a wonderfully creative student!
    I also have two baptisms (cousins), so a very full service.
    I look forward to reading your offerings.

  48. Sermon slowly progressing. Focused mostly on Genesis (thanks to commentary at Working Preacher) and tying the theme of baptism through it all.

    But I do need a children's time idea for really little ones (most are ages 2-6 with an occasional 9 year old). I think I want to do something to introduce Lent but really have no ideas at this point.

    I'll bring my favorite cake to the party--lemon cake with chocolate frosting. The family I married into thinks I'm crazy for this combo, but yum!

  49. Happy birthdays! And will there still be some of those incredible sounding ginger & chocolate covered blueberries to enjoy at the party?

    Liz, I would love to hear more about your service and your tree.

    SB, my dh started watching Downton Abbey on Netflix yesterday and has hardly done anything since! Enjoy your 48 minutes.

    I am blissfully free today, because I have tomorrow off. Dh and I have a 2/29 anniversary; it has taken us 20 years to get to our 5th anniversary this coming Wednesday :-) So tonight we are staying in a local hotel, eating dinner and breakfast at nice places, maybe going to a movie, wandering about the town and generally getting a little bit of relaxation; teen sons will spend the night with their aunt. I am delighted!

  50. Hi Liz! How wonderful to baptize two cousins!

    Martha, way to go on your draft! Did I hear something about singing?

    Pass me some more of that German Chocolate cake, please, Purple. Three layers or even four -- it's fine with me!

    Greetings to SheRev & esperanza, too!

    I got a call that there was a glitch in a youth event here at church. Apparently, they don't know what to do with too many kids and too much food! Love it! We also have extremely poor internet here, so I am fortunate to have a weak couple of bars at the moment.

    I look forward to reading your sermons when I get home and also getting my own sermon a little more ready for tomorrow.

    The natives are getting restless, so I'll check in with you in a little while.

    Carry on!

  51. Finally have a service. The one week I feel like I have lots to say about the wilderness and hope and am introducing the "Pray it forward" cards I need to keep it short. It is our Annual Stated Meeting tomorrow (my first) and I am trying to keep the service shorter so that we are not there all day. It's not ideal but it is practical.
    I have also been writing my report for the meeting which has a couple of slightly sensitive issues which I felt needed to be touched on so I hope I have the balance of that right.
    It is almost 11pm here and long after my usual prep time - I am not a night owl!
    Blessings to all preaching and thanks for the inspirational comments so far!

  52. anybody up for some sourdough buttermilk biscuits? Get'em while they're hot! (home-made yogurt in lieu of buttermilk, mm mmm good)

  53. Crimson, I need some of those biscuits in my belly, STAT!!

  54. Well, that sounds tasty, CR!

    Sherev - the most meaningful Lent experience I ever had was giving up feeling sorry for myself. It was a melodramatic year, and it turned out I felt sorry for myself a lot more than I knew. So, the giving up was really for awareness raising. I have a friend who's giving up fb this year - and I think that's to make room/time/space for God.

    I got nothing still/again. I am taking a break from the Justice Conference (Walter Brueggemann! Worth the price of admission!) and am heading back there in a little while. Trying to decide if I should wade thru emails in the meantime, (Shane Claiborne and Ben of Ben and Jerry's on the same stage! I'm hoping there will be handouts) or try to work on an outline or something.

    Childrens time ideas welcome. I keep thinking of 40. Maybe have everyone try to be very quiet for 40 seconds and then imagine what it would be like to be quiet with just your own thoughts for 40 days? Whaddya think? Too much opportunity for silliness, esp on the part of my son?

  55. Juniper, there's the wonderful YouTube short about Jesus's 40 days intake wilderness; search "40 Jesus temptation" and you will find it. Great to use, or for ideas.

  56. Here's s thought for the children's time. They've probably all heard the story of Noah's Ark, but have they really thought about what it was like to be in an enclosed space for 40 days with your brothers and a bunch of stinky animals? There's a chance to explore the idea of "40" as a representative number and also the idea that sometimes to get to the place God wants us to go may not be easy or fun. Sometimes it's work. (Maybe I want to say that to the grown-ups as well.)
    Meanwhile, I've posted my sermon. I'm glad to be done and not sweating it late this time. I'm trying hard to get back to a better routine. Here it is: Desert Island Books. I think it's too long, so I may cut it in the morning, but it's not outrageous, at least.

  57. I have a sermon too! woohoo! I posted it with the youtube videos of the songs that are in mid-sermon tomorrow, too, so you can get the full experience. Plus, who doesn't love spending a few minutes with Carrie Newcomer? Stop by and let me know what you think--especially about how the music integrates (or doesn't), as I'm a little worried about that. Fitting in two songs AND commenting on the actual biblical text AND introducing the congregation-wide fast from programs/meetings is much harder than I thought it would be when we made this plan 2 months ago.

    I think I'm going to do the pretzel children's time this week. Was it here we were talking about it last week? Or was that some other group I was talking with? (I can't brain is fried after this week) Anyway, it's the idea of pretzels being a Lent snack because they are shaped like praying hands. Oh yeah, I'm giving out pretzels. Perfect for the week we ask the kids and youth to being fasting from snacks. hahahahahahaha.

    Now to think about dinner. hmm....ooh, and since I finished at a reasonable hour, I can watch the Downton Abbey Christmas Special tonight! yay!

  58. Oh, someone asked for conference takeaways - still synthesizing, but my favorite one liner = "The prophets wasn't just talking about bad religion, they were also talking bout bad politics and bad economics - it was the whole Ba'al of wax." (WB, natch)

    It was kind of obscure, but very appreciated by those of us who got it :)

  59. Just coming to the party with a hot cup of chai. The kiddos are off playing, so this is an early start ... and what better way to dive in than to read through the conversation here! I'm focusing on the Genesis text tomorrow and following the "covenant" thread through the OT texts for Lent, so tomorrow's sermon needs to ground the whole sermon series. Feeling self-generated pressure. Here goes! :)

  60. Martha, they were actually in the ark for a YEAR! Really stinky! Although that messes with your #40 discussion :(

    I have 3/4 of a sermon but have been distracted/procrastinating for the last 2 1/2 Must.get.back.on.task.

  61. Hello everyone! This may be my first and last check-in of the day/evening, since the Internet is wonky at my house, but I really don't want to be at the cold church any longer in this snowstorm. Time to head to a warm home and write there. (Plus I might actually accomplish a lot there with no Internet!)

    Like Rachel, it's OT and covenant for me this Lent, although I'm thinking of swapping out some other covenants later in the season a la BBT's series on covenant in "Gospel Medicine." Don't have much more than that at this time though.

    It would also be lovely to finish up my newsletter article, write my weekly Lenten devotions, and prepare for Wednesday's noon worship, but that might be asking too much of this evening. We did just get out of an awesome planning session for our weekly Messy Churches through Lent though.

    May the Holy Spirit be with us all! And if I can check back in later, I will.

  62. Little ones are in bed. Ssshhhh! They can't tell time yet, don't tell them it's before bedtime.

    It's been a very satisfying day, domestically speaking. Lots of little projects completed. But, oh....that pesky sermon.

    CR, thanks for the good thoughts and even more for the fresh biscuits. That sounds scrumptious.

    Oh, if you think it's strange that I'm subbing for hubby tomorrow (I do, a bit), it's only the 4th time in 14 years of marriage. We don't make a habit of it!

  63. Bedtime ritual for The Boy has begun which correlates to me opening the sermon document and trying to embrace the work that is left to be done.

    Hoping the pieces form. I'm giving myself an 11pm deadline.

    Happy for those ahead of the curve - SB, you go girl!

  64. I'm just back from trip to the council meeting, then to my hair appointment, then to town to get the things we need to make bars for the youth supper fundraiser tomorrow night. Then I went over to the church to get things ready for tomorrow -and the north entrance was frozen shut!

    Can you believe that here in this small town in north central (almost North Dakota) South Dakota I can't find any salt to put down in front of the icy door!?! Seriously? So I've got someone bring over some softener salt for the door and someone else who will look at the treacherous sidewalks in the morning and get them salted.

    I'm finally ready to finalize my sermon. Thanks purple for the comment - it really helps. And then I have to write prayers since my usual prayer resource follow the lectionary and I'm not.

    Oh - and I just realized that I didn't make copies of the newsletter and calendar. That may just have to wait - the weather has turned wicked.

    I think I need some cake! Thanks to all the birthday celebrants for sharing! Hope your day was wonderful!

  65. Well, I have a draft, but no clue as to whether it's much good. I fear I may have tried to pack too much into this one (ironic, given Mark's leanness). I hope it's not too all-over-the-place.

    I'm going to let it rest for a bit and then see what I think. Going to have a late dinner now (I have some yummy slow-cooked fajita flank steak to share!), then work on Sunday School, and then come back to the sermon.

    I really appreciated the youtube 40 vid y'all were referencing earlier today. I shared it on our church FB Lenten group and people really liked it!

  66. I should have come here earlier! I told myself I would write first since I got home about 3:00 and had next to nothing. But I think I would have found better ideas here.
    and Sharon, I've been self-medicating (with Chocolate) for days...

    well I may post mine, I started as outline, but mostly wrote it out. Tomorrow I'll review, re-edit and see if I can manage to make sense of it as I preach.

    It's not my usual way, but it is today's way.

  67. I'm back from the youth event. The whole youth ministry experience is new to this congregation. Their enthusiasm is really wonderful!

    Welcome, each of you, to the what is now getting to be the Late Night RevGals! I am among those who are still working on a sermon-to-be, and it feels like crunch time.

    More cake anyone? And yummy biscuits! And a cuppa Rachel's chai, please!

  68. Afraid my sermon is wandering in the wilderness...

  69. I'm afraid the congregation will FEEL like they've been in the wilderness after I preach mine..

  70. Well put, Nancy! Right there with you.

  71. I've sat at this keyboard too long. Time to quit for tonight.

  72. I made some adjustments to mine, and I think I'm going to turn in a lot earlier than the past two weeks, blessedly. May the evening be early for all!

  73. I think I have a sermon or something close enough so that I can fill in some blanks in the a.m. It's got a beginning, a middle and an end, so that's something!

    A peaceful rest to all who are sleeping and getting ready for sleep. I'm right there with you. That 8:00 a.m. worship service gets here quickly and I'm yawning more than I'm writing now.

    May God bless each on in your preparation and in the Word you bring to your congregations tomorrow.

    I'll check in with the very late nighters when I get up very early in the morning.

  74. I have reached the point where the caffeine is more hindrance than help.

  75. Back from a lovely birthday dinner, a little later than intended, as the place we intended to eat had closed down without us knowing!

    My sermon/meditation is done and posted
    over here if you'd like to wander through the wilderness and take a look!

    Blessings to those still at work--yes, there are still plenty of chocolate-covered yummy bits to share! (And thanks, all, for the birthday wishes!)

  76. I tinkered some more and re-did the ending and I'm a lot happier with it. Thanks purple and Sharon for the comments! It really helped me to focus on the point I was trying to make.

    Now to just get the order of worship and sermon on my kindle and I'll be ready for worship. Although I'm tempted to just chop down a tree and print everything out - so much quicker, but in the long run harder to work with in the morning!

    Blessing to everyone who is still wandering in the sermon wilderness - may God send manna your way!

  77. Harumph. My intro doesn't go with the rest of the sermon, but it feels too abrupt to start without it. Guess I'll leave it in and see how it looks in the morning. Other than that, I think I'm about done.

  78. I'm finally really here and ready to write about fasting. It's interesting since I'm have done Lenten fasts, but none that I'd call particularly memorable. Maybe they don't need to be memorable as long as they are "useful" in the moment. I'm feeling a bit pulled by different ideas of what a fast is for - clearing out our mental/physical/spiritual clutter, or experiencing self-denial, or "forcing" dependence on God, or delaying gratification, or identifying with the poor, or, or, or. I guess it can be any or several, maybe even all of these, but I'm not sure how to focus this into my sermon. I'm leading more toward fasts that help us cast out demons, cut the "evil" out of our lives to be more open to God's presence and Christ's call. When I where I thought I was going to the children's sermon volunteers I mentioned fasts that help us get rid of the things in our lives that keep us away from God or harm others. Maybe I can acknowledge all the different kinds of fasts, but just focusing on one kind for the sermon.

    Last week I wrote 3 mini sermons, about 350-450 words each. The writing went much smoother. I think I might break my moves up into chunks of about that size each, and then think of each chunk as a goal. I also wrote the last one first last week. I've never done that for a singular sermon, but I'm considering it tonight.

    Must do a little more reading a research. I'm hoping for a good fasting story, midrash, something.

  79. Well, I guess there will be some major changes in my sermon tomorrow in the way of illustration of "Practicing the Desert." The former wife of a former pastor of my church died tonight. She was 48 and has many friends here. I spent much of the afternoon at the hospice with her mother, brothers, 20yo daughter, and other family and friends. Having lost a mother, brother, and son, I'm finding that there's a whole lot of desert going on, in my head and heart as well as in this family's life.

  80. It wasn't the intro, it was the next transition paragraph. Fixed, much better.

    Two services tomorrow. I never do two services. Hopefully I won't be too bored with the sermon by the second one! How do you who regularly do this manage that?

    Blessings to everyone still working. Off to bed so I can get us all out of the house in a timely fashion tomorrow morning.

  81. And I have been so grateful to the Revgals for sensitizing me to certain issues, as yes, there have been issues for me with offering pastoral care here. The lady in question belongs to another local church, but has not been there in 1.5 years. Many of her friends from there have materialized with meals over the past few weeks, but none of the pastors have shown up, and she responded negatively to my offer to call them. (So I guess while I was sensitized to the pastoral care issue, I couldn't solve it.)

  82. Quoting YouTube, Bill Cosby and the PCUSA Book of Order - brilliance or sabotage.... tune in!

    Esperanza, I am not bored by the 2nd go around, although I have been known to make major changes or little tweaks.

  83. And may I add just one more unrelated thing? At the hospice tonight, as some of us were relaxing in a parlor, one of my members announced that she had the "best idea" for our after school program this week. It involved t-shirts and a song with the words "God's Army." I'm afraid that a line had finally been crossed and that my response was not one of my best.

    What a day. This is why I write sermons by Thursday.

  84. Oh, Robin, what a day. That Thursday plan is so wise.

    kzj, I have a great idea: what if we got Bill Cosby to *write* the Book of Order? That would improve its sermon potential, for sure.

    And that right there means it's time for me to go to bed.

  85. Not yet 8 here and having spent the day with Awesome Theologians (I am such a Shane Claiborne groupie) I am all fired up.

    Also - have some extra dinner (spinach/cheddar omelet, bacon, english muffin with cinnamon honey) if you want a late night pick me up.

    So, hey, Sherev, do you have anything from the desert fathers and mothers? Weren't they all about fasting?

    Ok, going to work now solid for 35 minutes. I'm doing the MAMD thing - if I work hard for 35 minutes, then I can play scrabble for 5 :)

  86. So hard NOT to quote bill cosby when the ark story comes around, imo. although I may have dodged it this time....

  87. Ironically, I'm quoting one of his riffs about moms - "I brought you into this world, I can take you OUT!" (But God chooses not to.)

    I have everything in this meditation (ahem) but the kitchen sink.
    And an ending.

    Also, I thought that time management trick was 20 and 5 then after 5x a 15 minute break.

  88. Oh, and just one more thing, as it turns out: Have any of you ever received a late Saturday night email from someone unknown to you who announces that she's essentially reading your sermon, or at least a large chunk of it) tomorrow morning (giving credit, but still) in lieu of writing her own? And if so, what did you do next?

    I do not trust myself to respond to anything tonight, and so I'm not.

  89. The sermon is done. And has most of the good stuff from Thursday in it I think. Regardless, it's a decent enough sermon.

    Now for prayers and then bed.

    Robin, if you are able, consider it a complement and let God speak to that congregation through your words and her delivery.

  90. Oh, KJ, didn't know there was a prescription for the timing - just meant the idea of working for a while and then rewarding oneself with a break. Which seems obvious, but I did not think of it myself...

    Robin - I once used someone else's sermon. It just said exactly what I wanted to say, but much better than I could have. I contacted the author and asked her, and she said she was pleased that her words helped, and asked me only to attribute the sermon as a whole to her at the beginning of the sermon time, which I did. So, we had a lovely little exchange of mutual gratitude about it. Anyway, maybe the emailer thought it was flattering to you? I guess when I've posted sermons in the past (not really blogging now, so not doing it), I pretty much expect people will be quoting them -either whole or in part - and I am ok with that. To me, 90% of a sermon is in the delivery/context anyway, so it doesn't feel like stealing from me, since no one else sounds like me or is in the particular congregation I am in. Hmm, maybe this is more of a conversation than you really wanted right now. Mostly, I'm sorry if it poked you. You didn't need that after the day you've had!

    Ok, off to my scrabble now. I have 600 not-to-bad words. Maybe I'll be back in another half hour....

  91. evening, sisters! hope you've had a good day. I've had a talk with a friend, I've tweaked my sermon, chatted with my grandma, and finished season 2 of Downton Abbey. So I think it's time for bed.

    Robin--she TOLD you? I find that odd--usually I ASK (even for a paragraph), and if I don't hear back on my timeline then I write a backup of my own, possibly using the same idea but in my own words. maybe it was someone with too much going on to write and her brain space was occupied by too many other things to send a gracious request?

    I've seen a bunch of different time management techniques out there, but until there's one as effective as keeping the girl scout cookies within sight but out of reach...

    and now, to bed. must go to the store in the morning to get pretzels before church. don't let me forget!! night, all!

  92. An awkward time for my computer screen to go black (to say the least). God bless Dropbox.

  93. 'Tablet'

    Also, Juniper, my apologies for being arbitrary. Glad you got 600 words down!

  94. Robin, what a day you have had. Prayers with you and those who mourn.

    After avoiding my own wilderness times all week, I finally went there and found a sermon.

    You will find my sermon at:

    When I try to post it with a direct link, I get the message "Tag is not closed: A." After a Deanery meeting, a long session of writing and a slightly overcooked dinner, I don't have the patience to keep working the formula.

  95. Ha KJ! I should be WAY LESS arbitrary. That 5 minutes turned into...30 or so... ::shakes fist at the sky:: Curse you forever Bubble Witch Saga!!

    Hmm, girl scout cookies! I have an unopened box right. up. there.

    Ok, writing, writing, writing!

  96. How did I not think of the Desert Mothers earlier in the week, Juniper? I've got a Roberta Bondi book on the DM and prayer. Too bad it's at work.

    Oh well. I think I'll be OK. I'm actually having a strange drought of motivation that comes after a few weeks of, not my words, hitting the ball out of the park. I can admit that my last "series" went together pretty well, but now I've sort of got my own expectations up so high that I feel like I can't reach them. I've got to come down at some point, so I almost want to make it now to relieve some of the pressure. (This is such an anti-Lent attitude. How do I fast from THIS?)

    Anyway, I also ran across a sermon from 5 years in my last church on one of the same texts right at the start of Lent. I feel a great rework ahead of me, if I can let myself do it, then a decent night of sleep. I hope. I've got some great ideas from friends, colleauges, and church folks about what fasting has been/can be. I think I'll run with what I've got and be done.

    Robin, I've sort of done that, but I feel like the time I did it was much more of an "ask" than announce. It was actually another one of our ring members whose sermon I used. I had become quite sick on Saturday without a sermon ready. I knew I couldn't be there on Sunday morning, so I read around the ring, at least from among those who were NOT late Saturday writers, and picked one that fit what I was planning to write the best. I CONTACTED that person and asked, then with permission sent it on to an elder in the church to read in worship. I did tweak some of the details a bit before I sent it to make it a little more appropriate for our context, but for the most part, like 85%, it wasn't mine. The original author said not to worry about giving credit, but I had the reader do it anyway.

    Asking and announcing are different. I put my stuff out there sort of hoping that someone somewhere finds it useful for something, but I have to admit I'd like to be asked if it were going to be completely repreached. I tend to assume, though, hopefully not arrogantly, that some of it ends up being used unattributed somewhere. Such is life.

  97. Well, I'm declaring this thing preachable and going to bed. It has a dog in it so I will be doubly sure to walk it proud come tomorrow.

    Blessings upon all of you still at work - both spoken and unspoken.

  98. My whole day went sideways. I got over to the church and realized that the Sunday School teacher had a bad week at her paid job and hadn't had time to even think about preparing anything. First order of business was to get a Sunday School lesson together, then, the Prayer Shawl Group was meeting, so I spent some time with them, Aquasize class followed and then I had a dinner and theatre planned with my daughter. We've also had our first real snowstorm of the year, so I've had to shovel several times to keep ahead of the snow, so sermonizing just wasn't possible. So, when I went into my files and read a previous sermon and my response was "Not bad", I decided to go with it. In some ways it is more appropriate now than the first time I preached it, so I did some work on it, and I'm ready to go! Good night all.

  99. I've got 9 minutes until my self-imposed midnight bedtime and 5% battery left, so I guess my timing is good. I've marked up my previous sermon a bit, so I know the places to change for my current setting and a big (but not overwhelming and difficult) chunk to rewrite when I wake up to fit my current series. Seems like it might sound better to just start over, but for some reason starting with something tonight is easier.

    Goodnight until the early morning!

  100. Ok, I have a decent draft, so I'm heading to bed. I'll be up early, though, so I'll see ya'll on the other side. Blessings on your proclaimings!

  101. After a blogging hiatus, my offering for Lent 1 can be found here:
    What it means to be Watermarked

  102. Good morning, late late nighters and early morning RevGals!

    I am tweaking my sermon, listening to Pandora hymns, cleaning up the cake crumbs, and giving thanks for all of you and the gift of this community. So blessed to spend Lent 1 together!

    Prayers today for our words and our lives to speak a word of life and hope.

    Peace to each of you.

  103. Good morning. I'm up, too, to finish what I've got. My brain is not quite here yet, though.

  104. Just finishing up here, after an early snooze and then a 5 am writing fest. Good thing it poured right out once I finally got started. Whew!

    Blessings on all pondering, preaching, and proclamation today. And may there be much cake.

  105. Thanks for the comments and advice, ladies. I was able to write this morning that I hope that the sermon is a blessing to her and her congregation, and to mean it. So glad I did not respond out of my exhaustion and sadness last night.

  106. Robin - so glad you are feeling better by the light of this new day.

    Wow, this sermon is boring even to me (she rev, btw, i totally get the mood you have of having a bad one after a couple good ones...) but i got nothing else, so in I go.

    and walking it as proud as I can. blessings on all of you, too.


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