The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Throw some glitter

I serve in an urban church that looks like a Harry Potter castle. Sometimes I sit and pray and wonder what God is doing with church. Looking out my study windows, I watch fast-paced people, many with a cell phone in one hand and coffee in the other. It makes me wonder: how do we connect people in 2012 with the good news of Jesus?

I was ordained 22 years ago on a Reformation Sunday. The preacher proclaimed that the quality a pastor most needed was "courage." I believed her that day as I began my first call of 18 years in inner-city Baltimore. And I believe her now as I read Jeremiah and hear God's words about a new covenant: "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33). Do I have courage to figure out how God is writing on the hearts of the people in this gentrifying section of Washington, D.C.?

One of the young people working at our congregation was listening to music while preparing our Sunday worship bulletin. The song was "Glitter in the Air" by the artist Pink. "Listen to it," she told me. "I think you'll like it." Since I've learned that the Spirit nudges me through people around me, later that day I did listen. The line that got me was: Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?

The next day I asked my young co-worker, "What is it about throwing glitter?"

She replied: "It's so hopeful. It connects to something in my heart. When you throw up glitter, it's beautiful ... wherever it falls it is beautiful and that is hopeful."

In that first Reformation time, a young Martin Luther sat in his friends' castle at Wartburg. He, too, wondered how to connect with the regular people who lived in towns and villages and cities. Luther spent his time praying, studying, writing and reflecting. His goal was to make the gospel of Jesus Christ accessible to a whole group of people not known to him personally but truly loved by God. One of his ways of connecting was to translate the Bible into the language of the people. In rapid fashion, using the new technology of the day (the printing press), Luther offered God's word to people far and wide. And it stuck.

So what about Reformation today? I wonder, pray and plead for holy wisdom. What has the ability to settle into a people — some with well ordered and carefully orchestrated lives, some skating on chaos, and some who are alienated from church? How do we speak to people's heads in a way that writes on their hearts the gospel? The gospel that Jesus knew was a way of joy and suffering for the sake of a love greater than any of us and a way that has the guardrails of peace and justice and compassion and service.

Maybe the Reformation in 2012 is about each of us who follow Jesus. Daily we translate the word of God into the glittering word of hope that our God intends it to be. From our Harry Potter castle church, I imagine opening windows, courageously throwing out fistfuls of glitter and watching it land. I know that it will be beautiful, and boldly trust God's ongoing reformation in me and in you. 


Richard Schwartz

Richard Schwartz

Posted at 12:04 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/30/2012

I heard about this sermon from my daughter, who had the pleasure of hearing it.  Keep up the good work, Pastor!  It's a challenging time for denominations such as ours, and we're blessed to have so many gifted leaders

Marilyn Fursman

Marilyn Fursman

Posted at 12:44 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/30/2012

I love your metaphor of "the word of God as the glittering word of hope that our God intends it to be." He certainly gained attention with that long ago star in the dark sky over Bethlehem. Keep those windows open and continue to throw fistfulls of glitter out there!

sig arnesen

sig arnesen

Posted at 9:58 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/30/2012

Courage! You bet! It is my take that we have little courage in most of our gatherings to wrestle with the big issues of the day: death penalty, abortion, war, global warming, poverty, racism, drugs, guns, just to name a few. And, I think, many people are turned off by us because we lack the courage and resolve to engage such issues. As Jesus said, "Courage, it is I!"(Mark 6:50 TEV)

Note: sig arnesen edited this post at 6:18 pm on 10/31/2012.

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