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Commentary: A truly fascinating exploration: the Gospels

August 23, 2013|By The Rev. Sarah Halverson

In the church we have liturgical seasons.

We begin our year with the season of Advent. We celebrate Christmas and Epiphany, move into a bit of Ordinary Time, and then it's on to Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. We celebrate Easter and its season. Then we have the day of Pentecost with its fiery red, and soon it's back to Ordinary Time.

We're into the "low season" of Ordinary Time as we approach "rally day," and we hope our church folk come back after their lazy summers of sleeping in and traveling. The truth is that the "low season" isn't an official liturgical title, but believe it or not, Ordinary Time is.

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So in a world where Ordinary is boring, what's a pastor to do?

Something a little less Ordinary. So during the summer months, I try to combat the low numbers that usually result from summer vacations, before the — again nonliturgical — "rally day" back to church in September.

Each year I try for a topic that might pique the interest of my congregation. One year it was "The Shady Ladies and Bad Boys of the Bible."

Last year we did a study on heaven and hell in a series I called, "The Hereafter: Here or After?" Often I seek out a theme song. I really nailed it with "Bad to the Bone," complete with original lyrics featuring all of the Bible's worst characters.

This year I again pondered what to do to engage my churchgoers as I compete for their attention with the summer sunshine, European vacations and God's gift to Southern California — those beautiful beaches. I needed something that would entice. I came up with Truth with a capital "T" — The Gospel Truth. If that can't get 'em in, nothing will.

And so this summer's sermon series was born: "The Gospel Truth: Whose Good News Is It?"

Before going into ministry, I pursued a doctorate in the New Testament. Academia was not for me, but I love to share about academia with my church. Unfortunately, over the years, I've come to realize that as a whole, we Christians know very little about the origins of our Gospels — for whom they were written, by whom, why, when and where. We don't realize that each of the Gospels tells a different story, for a different people.

So when a person claims to have the Gospel Truth, we must ask ourselves whose truth is it?

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