A series of hopeful messages for a church in crisis.
Montgomery begins his series of inspirational, uplifting religious ruminations in an unusual way—by setting them in a somber context. He originally gave the sermons in a real-life small church “located on the edge of a large city somewhere in the English-speaking Western world,” which was split by inner strife and turmoil. The congregation couldn’t agree about a possible expansion into a new building and eventually the church closed its doors as a result. As the pastor, Montgomery accepted full responsibility, but he also wondered why God allowed it to happen. When he reread the 12 Sunday homilies he delivered to his congregation during the 12 weeks of crisis, he was struck in retrospect by the clear ways in which God was speaking directly to the crisis, although none of the mortals involved could stop arguing long enough to hear the message. Time and again in these sermons, readers will find the author earnestly hitting notes of exceptionalism (“If we are to come into God’s presence as we seek to do here on a Sunday morning,” he reminded his listeners at one point, “we must also be separated from and untouched by evil of any kind”) and the need to be responsive to a higher calling (“if we do not respond, God will turn to others”). By explicating various Bible passages in these sermons, from the story of Mary and Martha to the Lord’s Prayer to the original sin and exile of Cain, Montgomery effectively seeks to reinforce John Wesley’s dictum that there’s no such thing as a solitary Christian. Seen in the context of other calls to reconciliation that came too late for their intended listeners, these sermons, although very clearly phrased, may make for melancholy reading.
Eloquent meditations on the healing power of Christian community, offered in the sobering aftermath of a church community’s dissolution.