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Paul wrote letters to the various churches and places he visited. Sometimes he wrote admonishments and sometimes encouragement, but in all cases, he wrote because of his love for those who shared in his faith, who believed what he believed, that Jesus was the Christ.

Colossians 1:1-2a
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse . . .

I can almost imagine what it must have been like. Many did not know how to read in those ancient days and so the letters were read aloud. They were a corporate experience. I can imagine a letter was read once initially and then, again and again, more slowly. I can imagine those gathered there talked about what they heard, what they understood, and what they didn’t understand.

What would it have been like if it was my name mentioned specifically? What would that be like?

In some ways, a sermon could be like one of these letters. Unfortunately, we have moved away from corporate discussion of what is shared from the pulpit. The sizes of congregations and traditions over the years prevent echoes to the sermons or questions of the speakers. There is an inherent assumption that the sermon is somehow God-breathed truth and therefore beyond reproach.

Either the sermon is a typed out set piece that has no wiggle room or it’s a spontaneous and often repetitious “inspiration” to a few notes.

That’s not to say that sermons aren’t anointed at times and a truth or phrase or even a just a word, hits deeply in the heart. But there’s something wrong if people are falling asleep in the pews. There’s something wrong if people don’t want to discuss the message.

What is this to me? I don’t really know. I just want to be part of the love letters and I want a kind of corporate experience that allows for “permission to speak freely.” (Also the title of a new book by Anne Jackson.)

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