09 November 2009

Creativity and the Priesthood of All Believers

We're going to try something new at Sunday morning worship in a few weeks. We're going to have a potluck sermon.

Lutherans are famous for potluck dinners, where each participant brings something and the community eats, well, communally. It's the subject of many jokes, of course, most notably in The Lutheran Handbook, where the authors offer practical advice such as "What To Bring To A Church Potluck (By Region)," breaking it down into the three staples (salad, casserole, dessert) and insisting that in lieu of any of the above, any gelatin mixed with fruit, miniature marshmallows and/or shredded carrots is a perfectly acceptable substitute. But I digress.

The point of the potluck is, of course, that all may be fed without one person being responsible for the feast. Everyone has their favorites, and in long-established communities some people are depended upon for certain dishes. My mother's Butterfinger Dessert is always a hit, but I'm making a bit of a name for myself with my Potatoes and Peppers. My favorite thing about potlucks is the sheer variety you can get. A plate filled with little helpings of many different dishes is just heavenly, in my opinion, and I usually go back to hit the stuff for which I didn't have room on my plate the first time through.

That's kind of the point of the potluck sermon as well. Unfortunately, for all that the church encourages people to bring their own gifts to meals, we don't have a very good track record at encouraging people to bring their own gifts into worship, especially the younger members of our communities. It's not intentional - most every church I know wishes that more folks would be active participants in worship. And I'm not sure what the reason behind the problem may be, either. But the end result is this: our campus ministry worship could very easily become dominated by the same small group of folks, with myself at the center of it all, and that's just not healthy for any faith community.

So here's what we're going to do. The readings for the first Sunday in Advent will be posted online and at University Lutheran Center over the next few weeks, and people will be encouraged to use their gifts to preach on the first Sunday in Advent. It's going to be open media: paint, write a poem, sing a song, write a reflection, dance - the format can be whatever you want it to be. What matters is that people understand that we all have something to offer when it comes to interpreting God's word in the world in which we live. True, not everyone has the same gifts for proclamation - but heck, people who bring KFC to potlucks are still feeding their neighbors, aren't they? So if it's a U2 video you want to share, have at it - just bring it and offer it to the group, and see what God might have to say.

I have no idea how effective this is going to be. It could flop - it might be me and one other brave soul offering something to the community. But there's a need for all of us to understand that worship isn't solely the province of the professionals. We pastors are called to equip the saints for ministry, not to do it for them, just as a potluck dinner isn't a potluck dinner if just one person is doing the cooking. Here's hoping everyone gets a taste of the same delight I feel when I wolf down a plate of yummy potluck food - and that everyone gets fed well, too.

Grace & peace,

ps: I just found out that the Rev. Dr. Herbert Brokering died over the weekend. His hymn "Earth and All Stars" is a perfectly appropriate hymn for this kind of thing: the idea of classrooms, labs and loud-boiling test tubes singing a song to God is not the sort of thing we tend to expect, but it's true nonetheless. Here's singer/songwriter Jonathan Rundman leading a congregation in singing "Earth and All Stars"

pps: I forgot to add that this idea was generated by this post at A Church for Starving Artists. You really should read that blog if you're at all interested in ministry that encompasses both the 'traditional' Protestant folks and those who are interested in doing and trying new ways to embody the faith.


  1. Scotty, this is a GREAT idea!!! I think if I ever (please, God) get another permanent call, I will give this a whirl!

    By the way, did you know Jonathan Rundman is my childhood pastor's nephew and a native of my "home"? We're very proud of him!

  2. ah ha... what a great idea. what thought-provoking piece from jan... and as i sit here trying to craft something meaningful for a prairie congregation's new addition... i realize part of the struggle is that the stories are not mine... they are theirs... i think it's gonna be interactive on sunday... bwaaa haaa haaaa...

  3. oh and... i've started skimpin' out on potluck dinners... too afraid i'm gonna give someone food poisoning with my less than stellar culinary skills...