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.
Seminaries generally do a fine job of educating the minds of people who are called into ministry. But how well do they form the hearts and spirits of those people? Do seminaries build leaders who are servants of Christ?
After serving as a chaplain in World War II, Gordon Cosby wanted to create a church that helped people truly become disciples of Christ. Since the 1940s, the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., has called people to spiritual discipline and to social mission.
Following a speech by Nadia Bolz-Weber at the First Baptist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, a woman in tears spoke up to say that she was unable to forgive herself, because she had been told many times she was unforgivable. Bolz-Weber, widely known as a tattooed, salty tongued Lutheran pastor from Denver, responded: “Maybe for as many times as you’ve been told that, you need to hear that God is gracious, and merciful, and slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and loves you as you are. And as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by Christ’s authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all of your sins.” The congregation responded, “Amen” (Wisconsin State Journal, February 2).