Anthony Siracusa came to First Congregational UCC in Memphis in 2002. A legally emancipated 17-year-old and a high-school dropout, he came with sadness and anger but also with ideas and hope. He was living in an anarchist commune and working as an apprentice at a local bike shop. He had heard that First Congregational had space to share.
I puzzled over this week’s Old Testament passage for a long time. It is
hard to see its connection to the other readings. But if we read this
ancient story through a lens refracted by the forgiveness and
celebration themes highlighted in the other lectionary texts, there are
at least tentative connections.
“A funny thing happened to me on the way to the pulpit today” is as familiar a remark in some churches as “It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon” is on Saturday radio. Take the recent seminary graduate who comes to her first parish. Sermon after sermon includes a story about a seminary classmate, or about the place where she used to live or about how her wedding plans remind her of something in the epistle. Is there anything wrong with sharing one's life and experiences from the pulpit?
In June a mob of hundreds of people brutally attacked a group of Vietnamese Mennonites, including Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and 20 church leaders and Bible college students, who had gathered for a religious retreat. More than 300 plainclothes police and security forces stormed the host church at night under the pretext of conducting an “administrative search.” The pastor, known for defending the rights of Vietnamese minorities, suffered injuries to his head and chest and was left with broken teeth. For years, Vietnamese authorities have been accused of suppressing Protestants and other religious groups. These churches are prohibited from reaching out to children and evangelizing openly (Ecumenical News).