Worshipers ‘Listen In’ to Pastors’ Dialogue Sermon

Post a Comment » Written on January 15th, 2008     
Filed under: News
MERCER ISLAND, WA (January 15, 2008) – Worshipers at Mercer Island Covenant Church “listened in” on the conversation of pastors from two congregations as they delivered a “dialogue sermon” that modeled racial reconciliation on Sunday.

Henry Greenidge, pastor of Irvington Covenant Church in Portland, Oregon, joined his longtime friend Greg Asimakoupoulos, pastor of the Mercer Island church. In observance of Martin Luther King Day next week, the men discussed what it means to be “Brothers in Harmony.” They reflected on the text of Psalm 133, which begins, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.” (NLT)

Dialog sermonThe event came about after Mercer Island members Bobette Scheid and Joan Selvig attended the North Pacific Conference’s first Journey to Mosaic trip. “They took me out to coffee and asked how we could begin to take steps as a local church to model racial reconciliation,” says Asimakoupoulos. He then asked Greenidge to join him.

“A dialogue sermon is a creative way to go about unpacking a sermon text,” says Asimakoupoulos. “It’s more than taking turns delivering each point of the message. It’s a conversation about what the passage says and means to each preacher. The congregation gets to eaves drop on this conversation.

“I hope that members of our mostly Anglo congregation will begin to identify tangible ways of building community with people in our city who are different than they,” says Asimakoupoulos. “We don’t have many African Americans in our community, but we have many Jews, Hindus and Muslims. We also have many agnostics from whom we tend to stand at arms length.”

Asimakoupoulos noted that the Hebrew word “tov” can be translated not only as “good and pleasant,” but also “right or correct.” He added that, “It goes beyond feelings to something God expects of us because true unity happens not only when we feel all warm and gushy towards one another, but more so when we do it because it’s the right thing to do, even if we don’t feel like it.”

That the two pastors are longtime friends is important to communicating the message, Greenidge says. “The best platform for making significant advances in racial reconciliation is to begin with those who have built or have begun building bridges of friendship,” he explains. “This provides the foundation for authentic exchange, which in turn can open the door to understanding.”

The two have been friends for 17 years, dating back to when they met at an Evangelical Covenant Church Midwinter Pastors Conference. Greenidge recalls that he was a “newbie” and “looked lost.” Asimakoupoulos and his father invited Greenidge to join them for lunches and dinners. That would be repeated in the coming years.

“I had no idea such a simple invitation to a meal would be so impacting,” Asimakoupoulos says. “Now that my dad is dying of bone cancer, Henry’s comments encouraged me in the midst of our dialogue sermon.”

Asimakoupoulos shared with the congregation that the two men actually had met prior to their Midwinter meals at an event that seemed to be a preview of their future friendship. Asimakoupoulos was speaking at a Presbyterian men’s retreat at which Greenidge, who was a member of the denomination at the time, happened to be the worship leader. “Henry introduced me to that great little praise chorus, ‘Give thanks with a grateful heart.’

“The other thing I remember about that weekend was the topic I had chosen to speak on,” Asimakoupoulos recalls, “the unlikely friendship of David and Jonathan.”

Greenidge says one of Sunday’s highlights came when he spoke to an adult Sunday school class. “I shared parts of my journey and then had a question-and-answer time. I sensed real openness and a desire to grow and expand their thinking.”

In addition to sharing conversation on Sunday, the men also harmonized on new words written by Asimakoupoulos to the refrain of the old gospel hymn I Need Thee Every Hour: “I need you, Oh I need you/Brother how I need you/United, we are stronger/than when we limp alone.”

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