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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

The Sarah Test

I have a member of my congregation named Sarah. She is an African-American woman in her fifties who often struggles to pay her bills. The weight of oppression, depression, and isolation weigh her down daily. She is dying to hear good news that will help her live another day. She needs to know deep in her soul (like all of us) that she is loved and cared for by a just and compassionate God.

As an incoming student at Luther Seminary, I was excited to sit in my classrooms and learn how to preach the Good News to a woman who needed to hear it. Unfortunately as I sat through some of my professors' theological abstractions, I often struggled to hear a message that could connect with Sarah. 
Because of this experience with Sarah, I began to listen with very different ears to my professors.  I started to call this hermeneutical lens "The Sarah Test". There were many sermons and lectures that did not cut the mustard. You can imagine how many messages that are delivered in financially prosperous white congregations and classrooms simply do not apply to someone in Sarah's social location.
This is the blessing of contextual education.  The dialectical relationship between these two spheres invites us into a deeper understanding of God's Kerygma so that we might "fuse the horizons" (Gadamer) between our classrooms and our contexts.

I imagine that each of you in your CPL and internship sites will begin to develop your own version of "The Sarah Test".  You will have your "Stephen Test", your "Lucille Test", your "North Minneapolis Test" and your "Mankato Test." As your horizon expands you will be able to proclaim not only to your community but you will begin to preach Good News that is actually received as good news for the whole world. May it be so!

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