Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

1st Sunday in Advent Prayer

Dear God,
Thank you for the time spent with families and friends over this holiday.
We begin today this journey of Advent with anticipation and hope.
We anticipate your coming today in our lives.
We anticipate the celebration of your birth.
We anticipate your coming again.
We hope for your presence in our lives today.
We hope for new beginnings.
We hope for healing in our lives.

Lord, our world cries out for hope and yet does not know where to look for that hope.
So Lord we cry out to you for the hopeless of the world.
We cry out to you for those who are in despair.
We cry out to you for those who are desperate.

Our hearts ache with yours Lord, when violence occurs and lives are lost.
We pray for those who mourn the loss of lives in Mumbai India.
We pray for the WalMart worker killed in the stampede of people on Friday.
We pray for those who find themselves in difficult financial circumstances.
And Lord as we observe World’s Aid Day, we pray for those who are still affected by Aids.

Lord we pray for your coming again that it may be soon for you are the hope of this world.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Lectionary Discussion for Sunday, Nov 30

November 30, 2008 Advent 1
Advent 1 begins with Graphic images from Mark and Isaiah. Maybe it does that as a way of saying for us as believers, its all different how this Christmas thing is done. These scriptures really speak to us a word of hope in a time of economic crisis, climate change, continued terror, and uncertainty. At the same time, your church members have already done some shopping and heard the Christmas carols via Muzak and wonder why in the world are we focusing on these passages?
Mark 13:24-37
Here are some of the graphic images from Mark, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' From the fig tree learn its lesson. We are tolo watch and keep awake three times. And there is a promise in this. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Everything we unwrap at Christmas will not last. All that pretty wrapping paper piled in heap for the trash man to pick up, no matter how hard we worked at wrapping that present. But Jesus words will never pass away.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Paul talks to the church in Corinth that in every way they have been enriched in him so that they are not lacking in any spiritual gift as they wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen them to the end, so that they may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him they were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. According to Paul we lack nothing, and yet if we listen to the ads we lack everything and if we just had this one more item, bigger house, certain car we would have it all (but actually still want more.) Watch the ads this time of year, how does it lead us to believe that we don’t have enough, and then that effect our relationship with God, our families, one another?

Isaiah 64:1-9
Here are some of the graphic images from Isaiah: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence--
2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil. the prophet invokes the ancient image of the Lord as the cosmic, divine warrior who, according to Israel's collective memory, has victoriously 'come down' to Israel's aid. With a tone of desperation, the prophet implores the Lord to act likewise in the prophet's here and now. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people." (64:8-9) People on wall street, those working for the banks and mortgage companies may be praying that the heavens would tear open and they would be rescued somehow or another from the awful financial shape they are in. What would happen if during this Advent season if our prayer was; You are the potter, we are clay, we are all work of your hand, mold me and make me….”? How would Christians then impact the world if that came true? What would our churches look like? Our families? Ourselves? How would we celebrate the season?
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
A Psalm asking for God to come to save us! 3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

As your read these passages, what do you hear God saying? What do they say about advent? What do they say to your congregation? Yourself? How will you preach them?

Let us hear from you.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prayer for Christ the King Sunday

Merciful God, thank you for your son, who came to be our savior and Lord. We celebrate His Kingship; even though for some of us who have no King it is hard to understand what that means. God they nailed on Jesus cross the words calling him the King of the Jews. It was a joke. Lord let it not be a joke to us now. Your son, seems to be a different kind of King, he is the one who came to serve and not be served like so many earthly rulers. He still comes to us in faces, places, situations, and people that we would not recognize. And forgive us Lord because we do miss your son, and we don’t have eyes to see. Forgive us when we discount your children who are the least, the lost, the imprisoned, the sick, the stranger, the unclothed, the hungry, and the thirsty. Forgive us when we don’t serve them just as you serve us.
Lord we take time to remember the firefighters who are fighting the fires in Southern California, and those who have lost homes to the fires. We pray For world leaders who have come together to deal with the global financial crisis. We pray for all who are losing their jobs during this down turn. We pray for wisdom for our country leaders having to find ways to deal with the downturn. We pray for the continued problems in the Congo. We pray for the people of Zimbabwe who are faced with an outbreak of deaths brought on by cholera. We pray for the disease and unrest in the Mideast. We pray for peace. We pray for our President Elect as he prepares himself for taking office, brings on his cabinet and other government workers.

God today as we enter our places of worship to lead your children in worship speak the words through us that your children need to hear, including ourselves. Lord, pour your holy spirit into us that we will be servant of you with love and grace. Lord we worship and adore you. Amen.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lectionary Discussion for Sunday, November 23

Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Ezekiel writes about God seeking out his sheep, those lost, the weakened ones, the scattered, and those needing rescuing. In verse 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. He goes on to say how he will then heal them, take care of them, make sure they have good grazing area, and strengthen the weak. But then he speaks a note of judgment for the fat sheep, who have abused the weak ones, and who forced the scattering. We like hearing the news of God being the shepherd; it reminds us of Psalm 23. We won't and don't like hearing the news of judgment, because it us who are the ones being judged. Yep, we are the fat sheep. How will you preach this good news of grace and judgment? How can we be the ones who God works through to bind up the wounded, feed the hungry ones, and strengthen the weak?

Psalm 100 (UMH 821) A joyful Psalm of praise to God.

Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul starts with a note of thanksgiving for the Christians in Ephesus for their faith, and their love of the saints. He then prays for them that God will give them wisdom, revelation, and enlightened heart to all that is there in the relationship with Jesus. He then makes a statement about Christ being the King. So you can preach on what it means that Christ is your King, and what hope, what riches we have because of this. But what does it mean that we don't have Christ as our King? I like what Paul says in verse 18 and 19 you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. Wow we live in a world that feels hopeless with the economic situation; all that people have invested their money, their time, their selves in has left them empty and hopeless. We have that hope to offer this world. How can we offer it to this world? How can we offer Christ to others? How will you preach this good news?

Matthew 25:31-46 Ah the separation of the sheep from the goat by Christ the King. But which one are we? And how is this a message of judgment on us? And how will you then preach this? How many times have we missed Jesus in our lives? How did we do that? How do we keep doing that? How can we stop doing that? One year I preached this and came up with the idea that I was really a Shoat or a Geep, a combination of the two. Isn't it interesting that in the Ezekiel passage the judgment is between sheep and sheep but here it is between sheep and goat. Safiyah Fousa at Preaching Helps says; "we do not believe in salvation through works of righteousness, it does seem to follow that God is very concerned about our responses to the myriad needs around us. In what ways can we, as individuals and as churches, respond more faithfully to the cries of the indigent, to the ever-increasing numbers of strangers and prisoners, and to those who are chronically ill?" If we were called upon today to define the least of our city, our neighborhood, who would they be and what would they need?
Be sure to read "Blogging toward Sunday at Christian Century written by Christian Coon, the pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Deerfield, Illinois. on this passage. Christian makes reference to the book by Sara Miles; Take this Bread about her journey from being raised as an atheist to becoming a Christian and starting a food pantry at her church.
A note on Christ the King Sunday preaching from Karoline Lewis, Assistant Professor of Preaching, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN; at Working Preacher: Approaching our mom or dad, we would say something like, "Mom, when I turn my head like this," (which was then demonstrated with great intent and vigor) "my neck hurts." The response was always, "Well, then don't turn your head like that." This is a logical answer, indeed, but frustrating for a child of eight-years-old or so. It may be the case that a similar conversation occurs in the minds of preachers for this Sunday. "When I try to preach Christ the King Sunday, my neck hurts." The answer may be something like the following, "Well, then don't preach Christ the King Sunday." The result of moving back and forth between text and liturgical context can indeed be a pain in the neck. We are given texts that are rich and unique on their own merits, yet in our efforts to preach the day we do not preach the text. Sometimes the chosen lens through which to read them can seem forced or even manipulative. We find ourselves searching for what Christ the King Sunday says about the text rather than what the text might say about what it means to claim Christ as King. On Sundays such as this, it is a good reminder that the sermon takes place within the context of a worship service. It may be best to let the rest of the hour preach Christ the King and not the sermon itself.
Bruce G. Epperly at the Process and Faith lectionary ask the following questions of us who are preaching; What are we to say about the celebration of the reign of Christ" or "Christ the king" in a pluralistic age? Are such global affirmations simply whistling in the dark in a world in which 1) the majority of the world is non-Christian; 2) fear for the future of the planet is ubiquitous; 3) some of the most vocal Christians also advocate USA imperialism, unrestricted capitalism, incarceration and deportation of undocumented residents, and discrimination against persons on the basis of sexual identity? If Christ is "king," where is Christ's kingdom? If Christ is Lord, where is Christ being followed in ways that are saving the planet and its peoples?

And isn't it interesting that Jesus who is King saved he came to serve all becomes the one served but unrecognized.

So what about you, what are preaching for Sunday? What are your thoughts on these passages? What gets your goat or your compassion for this Sunday?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday prayer

Merciful God, in the stillness of this morning, we come on bended knee, bended heart, and bended mind, yielding ourselves to you. We ask for your breath to be breathed on us as we prepare to go into your sanctuary to worship you.
We admit there are ways we sinned this week with word and deed and sometimes inaction, or carelessness. Forgive us we pray so that we can be freed from those chains to lift our hands in praise to you and to receive your grace and mercy.
God, we come before you not just for ourselves but for those of our congregations who are sick, suffering, home bound and in nursing homes. We pray for those carrying grief heavily around their hearts. We pray for those worried about their jobs, their homes, and their diminishing retirement income. We pray for our family members, and our friends.
We pray for our world that is at war, in starvation and in chaos. We pray for people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and others who are displaced by war. We pray for those who children died in the collapse of the schools in Haiti. We pray for all people that are in the midst of pain and struggle that you would be their salvation, their refuge and dwelling place. And we pray for the end to modern day slave trade. We also pray your wisdom for the world leaders who have come together to address the worldwide economic crisis.
Lord, today’s scripture reminds us that we have been given so much by you only to hide it, or squander it. Lord, help us to know how to put to use the resources that you have given us so that it yields greater value not for us, but for you. Help us to know how to lead our churches to not hide the resources you have given them either.
Thank you for Lord for your many gifts and resources you do give us. Thank you for your many blessings and for your tender mercies.
We pray all this and more through your son Jesus.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lectionary discussion for Sunday, Nov 16th

This week's lection:Ordinary Time/Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

The lectionary scriptures found here.

Judges 4:1-7 During the period of Judges that ruled from the time of Joshua's death until King Saul. Joshua had warned them of apostasy and what did they do? They put their hand in the cookie jar anyway. Oh boy aren't we like that. Out of this arises the story of Judge Deborah. Calling her the wife of Lappidoth was another way of saying that she had a fiery spirit. There is not a lot known about her, although we know she judged and people came to her for her leadership. At this point of crisis with Israel in the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, Deborah took charge. She put together an army with Barak in charge of some and worked up a battle plan that had them working together to rescue the Israelites. Safiyah Fosua at Preaching Helps brings up the point about the cooperative work they had to get things done. You could address the connectional system or cooperating with each other in getting the church's ministry done or working with other ministries in the community. Ralph Klein at Working Pastor says that "Deborah is among the most prestigious female leaders in the Old Testament and her exemplary leadership may provide encouragement to lay and ordained female leaders in the church today." I think it could give encouragement to our children, our youth, our marginalized, and those maybe feeling a call into the ministry.There are two accounts of Deborah's battle, in chapter 4 and in chapter 5. The latter is written in archaic poetry that is probably one of the oldest documents in the Old Testament. There are several differences between the accounts as well. In the poem, Deborah is identified as a "mother" in Israel (5:7) Bruce Epperly at Process and Faith Commentary says "there is one nugget that is worth preserving—the visionary spirituality of Deborah. Despite the oppressor's power, Deborah was inspired by a vision of freedom. She first saw and then she proclaimed the military strength, residing among the Israelites, despite their subservient position. She claimed the vision of freedom and victory in a challenging time. She reminded them that God would provide them with opportunities to rebuild their society."
Psalm 123 or Psalm 76 (UMH 797) Psalm 123 is a Psalm calling for mercy from God for our contempt.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Paul continues his lessons on behavior as Christians in the period of waiting for Jesus' return. And he tells them not to worry, don't get caught up in all the prophecying, number games, and books written about the time of Jesus' return. Just live your lives as always ready and "let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." He concludes with "Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing." He tells them that we are destined for salvation and not wrath. We are to live as people of hope, faith and love, and yet how many of us do that? How many people outside the church are longing for that kind of hope, faith and love, and yet when they look at us that is not what they see. We are living in a time of economic uncertainty, that is having a ripple effect. How can these words be a light in the midst of this uncertainty?
Matthew 25:14-30 One of Jesus parable telling us what the Kingdom is like; "it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them." Jesus then proceeds to tell how then the property is divided up and entrusted "to each according to his ability. Then he went away." We are let in on how each one dealt with what is given them and we can see why the man chose each according to his ability. "After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them." The settling of accounts is quite unsettling to read; two get to enter into the joy of the master. One who is afraid of the owner's retribution hides it and does receive his retribution. Many a Pastor have used this as a stewardship sermon, and it might well be one. The question is stewardship of what then? Just our money? What about our membership vows we make, there is a many of our church members that aren't stewards of those at all or just one. Is this about risk taking? Is this about God trusting us? How will you preach this if you do preach this passage?Bruce G. Epperly says that "the heart of the parable is the challenge to faithfully and boldly explore and develop God's gifts in our lives. This scripture challenges persons and congregations to think big and live big. In light of God's abundant life, we are called to be spiritual visionaries who ground our visions in the transformation of daily personal and institutional life. What great thing is God calling you toward today? What vision of your congregation's future is luring your church forward? What limitations do we need to break out of both personally and congregationally in order to become God's partners in healing the world?"When I served the three point charge in Wadley and didn't have that many members, At each church I gave each member an envelop of money and challenged them to ask God what to do with that money and challenged them with this passage. Well one church combined their money and put in more money to help the poor in their community. In one church they all did a variety of things with the money but found ways to double the money for some ministry, or some need. I didn't have to invite them into the master's joy, they shared the joy they received from doing it. And many went on to continue doing things to grow a ministry. One church just could not figure out what to do and just returned the money given them. It was rather depressing. It wasn't long after that that church closed. There was no joy there.

So what are you preaching and what direction are you going in. Share your thoughts on the lectionary if you want or just share your thoughts in general.If you are preaching other passages, series, etc let us know.

I am not preaching this Sunday, I preached last Sunday and it was enough.Thank you all. I'll try to do better about posting these, I am sorry I got off track.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday prayer

Dear God, source of wisdom and truth. Grant us your wisdom to always be prepared for you coming today and everyday. We don’t know how or who or when that may be. But Lord, let us be ready, let us not be found unprepared and miss the joy of your presence.Lord we pray for ou President Elect and vice President elect, give them wisdom as well as they prepare to lead us during this financial crisis we are presently in.We pray also Lord, for the continued fighting and strife in our world. We pray for the countries that have been affected by this hurricane and those that are in the path. We pray for other parts of our world that are in times of crisis and need.We pray for wisdom as we gather in our various places of worship to worship you. We pray your spirit guides us who preach this Sunday, those who lead in worship, those who teach and those who greet. We pray that our minds, our hearts, and our souls be focused on you.And Lord we pray that you would come Lord Jesus, come and that we welcome you with open arms. Amen