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Sermon Junkie


Missioner-in-training Mary Mortenson reflects on the influence of sermons on her faith.

Photo by ADG Lab

I’m going to be honest. I am a sucker for a good sermon.

I love going to church, sitting down in a pew, folding chair, or even on a couch, and hearing a man or a woman share their thoughtful reflections on a Biblical passage.

I love the moment where my heart and my mind go “aha” and I’m able to see the Gospel with new eyes.

Sermons are so striking because the speaker isn’t often saying anything new, instead they’re saying something I’ve heard many times before, but either because the Gospel is said in a new way or because it’s the right time for me to hear it, that’s when the Gospel can change you.

Sermons I find, can come in the most unexpected places. Not only from behind a pulpit, but some of my best faith lessons have come from what one would call ‘secular sources’.

Here are all the places I get my fill:

  • Podcasts – I listen to a variety, including my favorite pastors’ weekly sermons, On Being, This American Life, Radio Lab, audio journals, etc. I’m always open to new suggestions!
  • Lectures – I loved school. Not necessarily all parts but I definitely enjoyed lectures from my college professors. It’s so inspiring to hear a well-studied person share their insights on a sociological theory or a classic and rich piece of literature. I know I’m a little nerdy, but I eat it up.
  • Strangers – Some of my best life advice has come from people who just start sharing random life stories with me. It has happened on airplanes, in a grocery store, waiting for take out, or sitting in a coffee shop. It’s beautiful.
  • Friends/Family – So we all have gotten “the sermon” from our closest friends or family members who decide that it’s their job to tell us how something should happen or to tell us that it needs to be a different way… and let’s be honest. In the end, we’re grateful for them.

As I reflect on all the ways that I satisfy my sermon quota, I realize that listening is the common denominator.

So listening is the key for “aha” moments. Taking in the world around me and letting it really change me.

I’m preparing to go to Bolivia in just two short months, and I am becoming more and more aware of my lack of language skill. I am nervous about it. What I’m realizing, though, is that my inability to speak, will force me to listen.

And I’m trying to see this as a gift. That listening well before I start speaking too much is a good model to follow.

Think of all the sermons I’ll hear.

Or better. Think of all the “aha” moments I’ll have.

Mary and Nate recently returned from two years of mission at the rural Carmen Pampa University in Bolivia.

Nate, the youngest son of nine, hails from La Cross, Wisconsin. Mary grew up picking strawberries in small-town Minnesota. The couple met at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where Mary studied sociology and outdoor leadership and Nate studied Spanish and geology. They share a passion for food and bicycling, and a desire to set their marriage on a foundation of service, simplicity, and a deeper global understanding.