This is my fourth time to attend the Festival of Homiletics. I am excited to be attending with Rebecca Goltry-Mohr as part of our Transition in Ministry grant. The experience has never failed to energize, encourage, inspire and fill my spirit with hope and faith. So far, this time has been no different. If I somehow missed the rest of the week (which I won’t), the price of admission has already been worth it.
Two beautiful sanctuaries are hosting the event. I was here six years ago and had forgotten the beauty of these spaces. Central Lutheran Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church sanctuaries and facilities connect historical buildings with twenty first century ministries. What a gift it is to be present in these places of sacred community.
The Festival is “an annual event that averages over 1500 attendees; fifty nine percent are women, twenty two percent under the age of 40, twenty six percent Lutheran, twenty one percent United Methodist, sixteen percent Presbyterian,” to name a few of the statistics. The speakers come from local churches, seminaries, colleges and bring inspiration and focus to this years topic: “Preaching as Moral Imagination.”
While I deeply appreciated last night, today for me has been what has triggered my own imagination and filled my soul. This morning, the first preacher, was not yet here. I didn’t catch why, but when we got to our seats we were singing and they were explaining that we were waiting. We went ahead and did the liturgy when the leader said, you know it is good for us to be in silence. Everyone laughed. He said, really it is. And then…..silence. In a sanctuary that seats 3000 people, with stone floors, in that moment, there was silence. And we waited.
Often that room is filled with music, with preaching and shouting and clapping, but for a few moments the space was still with expectation. Then Dr. William Barber II arrived to preach the morning service. And did he preach! He called out the need for a Moral Pentecost. He had so many quotes about the millions in poverty and the need for the church for Christians to no longer be satisfied to be silent in the face of the dehumanizing effects of poverty in our country and world. On Pentecost the afraid become empowered and get together and redeem the nation and the world.
That word would have been enough, but then I heard Otis Moss III preach twice. Oh my! I had forgotten how powerful and profound this preacher is! His first sermon was on Luke 24, the resurrection of Jesus. While others thought everything was said and done, “It’s too early to give up or give in.”
A few quotes:
It’s too early to give up on the church
It’s too early to throw in the towel
It’s too early to give a premature autopsy on the church and its ministry
It’s too early to put period where God has put a comma
It’s too early because God is bringing Life into the places of death and decay.
Then this afternoon, preaching on Luke 5:17-26 he proclaimed that God can speak through any one God chooses and by any means necessary. That sometimes religious folk block the door but God is moving on the margins and bring healing, hope, faith, love and grace by any means necessary.
It is well with my soul today. Tonight is an evening of music. First a concert with Brendan Mayer and Peter Mayer. Peter has been touring with Jimmy Buffet for over three decades as the lead guitarist. Later is the annual Beer and Hymn event with the Fleshpots of Egypt. This blue grass group takes over a pub and we do a lot of hymn singing.
Tomorrow, will be another day filled with experiences.