Matt talks to Jennifer Morrow, pastor of Rowayton United Methodist Church in Rowayton, Connecticut, and Timothy Ross, pastor of Hopwood Christian Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, about their weekly sermon collaboration, editing each other’s work, and listening for God’s movement in each other’s congregation.
In my first year of seminary, one of my professors suggested an exercise to our class that sounded fairly simple. He encouraged us to go to a public place, such as a shopping mall, and to watch people.
“Note your reactions to those you see,” he told us.
Lutherans are trained to hear the scriptures as proclaiming either law or gospel. By "law" they mean not passages from the Old Testament but all of the Bible's bad news: the sins we commit, the misery we experience, the sorrows we inflict on one another, the death we anticipate, the distance from God that diminishes our lives. By "gospel" they mean not the final reading on Sunday morning but the good news of the mercy given by a loving God, wherever in the Bible it is proclaimed.
Like many cities, Asheville, North Carolina, has a “Before I Die . . .” wall—a large chalkboard with multiple spaces for people to write some of their hopes for the future. Since the wall is on the path I take for most of my downtown walks, I read them several days each week. I’ve laughed and wept, said “me too” or “not me,” and wondered how many of the hopes chalked on that wall will be realized.
Time was when we had a neutral commons where those of us who wanted to say something could say it, try to earn people’s attention, and choose whether to give them our own. I’m speaking of course of the internet—a long decade ago, before social media swallowed it whole.
Many years ago I was the interim pastor at a small church and was free to celebrate Pentecost without regard to that congregation’s tradition. We decided that it would be confirmation day for the small group of youth who had been going to classes and they wanted red balloons among other things. This was long before I knew anything about latex allergies so red balloons it was. They were tied in bunches all over the sanctuary and there were red streamers galore. It was a day of joy to be sure.
Until a balloon escaped and wrapped itself around a ceiling fan.