Many years ago, I sent out post cards to about 400 senior high youth that said the following: Would you marry a prostitute? Come to Sunday School and find out. Needless to say, I received a number of phone calls from concerned parents. I also had a full Sunday school class for a few weeks. I’m not recommending this as an approach to preaching this week, but it is fun to think about what I might text to congregants to get them to come to worship.
When I think about Hosea and Gomer’s children and the meaning of their names, I can’t help but wonder what would the names of our congregations’ children be. How faithful have we been? Have we fallen in love with human ways rather than holy ways? Will our children be named the consequences of our choices? Will they be left to their own devices? Will they be children of God no longer? Perhaps the decisions we make as people of God may have a better impact on future generations if we listen to Hosea now. The text I might send would be: Will your children be named for your passion or your ambivalence? Come to worship and find out.
Psalm 85 is a beautiful song to God’s grace and forgiveness. It promises restoration and goodness to God’s people. This could be a reminder of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love in a time when many might be wondering where God is in the world. My text might read: Kiss and tell.if you’ve been at the place where love and faith meet. Share your experience in worship.
The Genesis text doesn’t hold the beauty of the psalm, yet it is powerful in its own right. We could read it as a story of destruction or a story of affirmation. God was displeased with the citizens of Sodom for their acute lack of hospitality. Abraham had more faith in humanity. This story can be read as one in which God smites Sodom for their sin. Or it can be read as a story that tells us when people abandon God’s holy ways they become so selfish that they implode. Either of these is possible. Another possibility is that even a small number of people who seek God’s ways can save a whole city from self-destruction. My text to my congregation could be: How many people does it take to save a city? Are you working to save lives or participating in the destruction? Come to worship and find out.
Psalm 138 builds on the theme of affirmation, though it affirms God’s works rather than human capacity. The psalmist gives thanks for God’s steadfast love with an are of reminding them of God’s faithfulness and goodness. It sounds like the psalmist is in a bit of distress and needs to remember that they are not alone. I might text: Do you feel forsaken? Remember that God’s steadfast love endures forever. For a reminder of how loved you are, join us in worship.
Colossians adds depth of Christology to the theme of steadfast love in Psalm 138. There is power in following as Christ taught. Resisting the pull of human ways is one of the benefits of being part of the Body of Christ. Remembering the call to love without conditions is one of the benefits of Christian community. We are all tempted by many things that can lead us away from holy ways. Coming together in community reminds us that we do not make this journey alone. I might send this text: Are you tired of being held captive by deceit and empty words? Can you find freedom in church? Worship could help answer these questions.
As is often the case, the lectionary readings for this week culminate in the Gospel reading. This familiar text contains the Prayer of Jesus and some of the follow-up teachings. There’s a multitude of sermons in these few verses from Luke. What I am hearing now is encouragement and affirmation. It’s possible for human beings to have a relationship with God in which we ask for what we truly need, and God responds to those needs. We are worthy of God’s love and response. Yet, somehow, we haven’t quite believed this. We are reluctant acknowledge our needs, let alone ask for the Holy Spirit to come to us. If we trusted ourselves and our God, we might knock on the right doors and be met with overwhelming grace, saving a whole lot of time, energy, and suffering. For this I’d text: Pizza at 3:00am might be a good thing if you are brave enough to knock on the door. Are you? Worship will increase your bravery (no promise of pizza).
What would you text to your congregation to peak their curiosity? Where is the Spirit leading you this week? Please join in the conversation so we can share the journey together.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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