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M Wms

Love this reflection, Nancy. I think on one level that many people do want the closed story, the security of knowing what will happen ... and I think that that desire comes from the deeper knowledge that the story is really open, and perhaps we have an ambivalent relationship with that openness, also known as "the unknown." :-)

Mary

Thank you for attending the conference and sharing the gold you found.

Scott Hutchinson

What a wonderful experience; one that you will draw from for quite some time. As I read your reflections on "The Never Ending Story," I could hear Dan Berrigan's voice from an Acts of the Apostles Bible Study reminding us, "The Book is still open!"
The text opens to us, and we are invited to enter in, meeting the biblical narratives with the narratives of our own lives.
I love preaching, and for years have been working on a dialogical approach. Openness is the nature of grace. Although it feels riskier, people in my congregation enjoy being part of a dynamic conversation, contributing inspired perspectives,engaging the opportunity to listen carefully to the characters and movement of the biblical stories, and to one another. I recently received a complaint that made me smile: "You never finish your sermons; you always give us questions or challenges to make us think . . . we have to complete it!"
Nancy, what you have called "the church's propensity for a closed ending" is, unfortunately, a violent one. We have been raised with it. Too often preaching (including my own) has stifled wonder, explaining away or ignoring nearly everything that is interesting about the story. The congregation is denied entry into the richness of imagery, language, inquiry, deeper reflection. Such preaching can make it hard for us to realize that these stories truly are our stories.
However, the "deliberate openness" of God offers the way of peace, a beutiful recognition scene: life shared with the humanity of Jesus.

nancy

What a great "complaint" to have received, Scott! I started to preach differently than I'd been taught to when I accepted the call at my current congregation. The majority of them are senior citizens, and they initially asked me to indulge them if they fell asleep during the sermon because it had more to do with their physiology than the material. By experimenting with dialogue and getting out of the pulpit and into their space, we discovered that they could be wide awake and engaged with the material....so that now, even with younger folks making up more of the mix, I've continued that approach. My personal "formula" for the sermon is to identify the 2 "C's"- comfort and challenge. I find that people pick up on the one that they need most and are able to balance the two so that they are not overwhelmed most of the time. It also gives me the opportunity to refer back to one or the other as need arises should someone be dwelling exclusively on just one point. Questions, more than anything else I say, seem to help us engage with the text. That, and coming at things from an unexpected perspective, which Girard et al offer us. My personal favorite "complaint" is: You're doing something different. We don't know what it is, but we know it's different. The problem is that we can see what you're saying in the Bible, but we also know we've never seen it this way before!" My response was something along the lines of: well, as long as we can all see it in the Bible, we're ok then!

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