This story originally appeared in The Herald Sun.
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DURHAM – Kathleen Perry is on two paths at Duke University – religion and pre-med. While the junior is still considering which direction to take for graduate school, she knows they could eventually combine or intersect. In a sense, they already have. When Perry underwent Duke hospice care training, she thought about how suffering is something we shove away, she said. And so she chose the bronze snake passage of the Old Testament book of Numbers 21: 4-9, the lectionary for March 18, to write a sermon to submit to Duke Chapel’s annual Student Preacher Sunday.
Perry’s sermon was chosen by a chapel and Religious Life committee, and she will preach on “Healing Bitter With Bitter” during the 11 a.m. worship service March 18 at Duke Chapel.
The sermon title comes from a phrase she heard a rabbi commentator say, about how God heals bitter with bitter. The Numbers passage refers to Moses leading the Israelites through the wilderness, and those who complained were bitten by snakes, then healed when they looked at a bronze snake.
In Perry’s sermon, she’ll talk about what the Israelites went through and how we undergo healing – recognition, crying out for help and humbling ourselves, and knowing who we need to cry out to, she said.
“We can often forget God is supposed to be who we’re crying out to,” said Perry. She will also talk about painful healing and how God is with us through it all.
Perry is United Methodist and involved with the Duke Wesley Fellowship. Being a religion major at a university with a Divinity School has meant advantages like exposure to Divinity professors, taking classes like Christian Ethics and being able to interact with Duke Div students who talk about their call to ministry and living their faith, Perry said.
“It’s difficult to imagine, being so steeped now, how different it would have been elsewhere,” she said. Her major has provided an academic background on ways Christian faith can be approached, she said, and the Wesley Fellowship has given her so many ways to grow in spiritual practices. She feels lucky to be a part of it.
Over this past winter break, Perry went on an archaeological trip to Israel with the religion department. While it was an academic trip, not a spiritual one, she still had a few moments when she felt the impact of where she was. She said it’s incredible that a country the size of New Jersey has such a historical impact on religion and politics at the forefront of the world’s issues. While studying archaeological sites, she still had the spiritual moment visitors expect will come during a visit to the Holy Land. The moment came at the Sea of Galilee by Capernaum.
“It was the sheer realization – this is the place that Jesus of Nazareth lived. [A spiritual moment] is something you expect to have going in, but get busy with the daily routine. It was that moment of peace and awe, that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God, lived here,” Perry said.
For this break from classes – spring break is this week – Perry will be going over her sermon and doing some editing after meeting last week with Duke Chapel Dean Sam Wells. She’s given one sermon before, along with two classmates, at Asbury United Methodist Church, but this will be her first solo sermon. She’ll practice in her room, in front of friends, and then once more in Duke Chapel before taking the Gothic cathedral’s pulpit March 18.
BY DAWN BAUMGARTNER VAUGHAN