Tag Archives: Festival of Homiletics

A Year of Gratitude End of May +++

I missed writing my prompt for our year of gratitude last week. I was attending the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis and posted two blogs, and had planned a third. Obviously not done! So I have a whole lot of gratitude, many random thoughts and a few things I want to share.

The Festival, as always was inspiritational and filled my “cup” both spiritually and intellectually. I am deeply grateful for all those who make this event possible every year. This was my fifth time to attend, and I have never been disappointed. The theme was “Preaching as Moral Imagination.” You can find my thoughts from the first couple of days here and here. The preachers were wonderful and challenging.

Some quotes that I continue to ponder from Anna Carter Florence:

(When speaking of Zaccheaus) “What Zaccheaus wanted was an unobstructed view of Jesus and what he got was an unobstructed view of Jesus in his life.”

As preachers, like Zaccheaus we need to learn to climb trees, “to try and see Jesus in the text, in the people, in the world, in each other, in the hard covnersation and in the meetings.”

So I am thankful for time away, for time to worship and learn and reconnect to the art and practice of preaching.

This week I am grateful for the clergy and laity that met at the Church of Resurrection to ponder and consider a way forward in the United Methodist Church. What’s next? UMC Next gathered people from every annual conference in the United States to pray, to have conversation and begin to discern a way forwawrd that would truly be open and inclusive for all. You can find the details of their meeting and their commitments here

I am deeply thankful for all those who gathered together and did the hard work to move the United Methodist Church in the United States in a new direction. I am personally committed to doing whatever I can to be part of this new direction.

This weekend is Memorial Day and I will give thanks for all those who have gone before me. I will decorate the graves of those I loved, and tell stories and laugh and maybe even shed or two.

What will you being thanks for in the next few days? What groups, or institutions or people are you grateful for their leadership and their commitment and their vision?

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Still on the Move with Jesus

Well, it has been a week! When I attended the Festival of Homiletics last week, I intended to write a blog every day. Instead, I wrote Tuesday and Wednesday. I still hope to have some final thoughts, but normally Sunday and Monday are for posting about worship.

Today, though, I want to note an anniversary from my facebook memories:

first blog is written and up! woo hoo!

It seems, I wrote my first blog ten years ago. Then, I was on blogspot, and then after a few years transititioned here to this site. My how time flies!

So, still blogging after all these years and my writing has been hit and miss. Recently I have been a little more disciplined about posting regularly and making sure I am sharing our worship service from First as well as a weekly prompt for our Year of Gratitude helps keep me diligent.

Which brings me back to “Jesus on the Move.” That has been our sermon theme for Easter and yesterday we honored our graduates an scholarship recipients. Not only is it a blessing to celebrate those who have graduated and to offer scholarships, it is a good reminder that no matter what stage we might be in our lives, following Jesus on the Move is never easy. You can find the worship here.

A new week begins, Jesus is still on the move and is still encouraging me and you to follow.

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Festival of Homiletics, Day 3

Oh my, what a day it has been and I haven’t even been to worship! I know tonight will be amazing with Rev. William Lamar IV preaching and a gospel choir. Today I have heard 2 sermons, gone to 2 workshops, listened to the amazing organ at Central Lutheran Church and walked, had a picnic and visited Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.

Early this morning a little after six a..m. I took a lovely reflective two mile walk.

And then it was time for a morning filled with Spirit and content. Just a few quotes:

Reverend Cynthia Hale:

Her title and questions said it all: “Have you got good religion or is your religion any good?” Based on James she reminded us that good religion is based on character and conduct. God shows no partiality and neither should we.

Bishop Rob Wright:

Preaching on Exodus 1: 15-21, the midwives Shiphrah and Puah who resisted the Pharoah’s order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys noted:

“Insurmountable odds give rise to unbelievable moral courage.”

“There is a proportional relationship between the side of the God we imagine and the size of the Pharoah’s we defy.”

Then I attended Reverend William Lamar IV‘s workshop where he asked us to reflect personally on Luke 4: 18-19. After reflecting I wrote down: What is good news for the poor in downtown Wichita? What does it mean to preach good news, release, recovery and the year of Lord’s favor in downtown Wichita?

Didn’t answer those questions, but they are good ones for me to ponder and prayer over. Moral imagination according to Reverend Lamar is shaped by the Spirit and tradition, tradition being Jaroslav Pelikan’s definition, “tradition is the living faith fo the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

Then Pastor Rebecca Goltry-Mohr and I had a beautiful walk to the park for lunch

Then we walked to Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church where we visited the sanctuary with these beautiful windows (the pictures are dark because they were refinishing the floors and there were no lights on

Then a beautiful art gallery were the religious art of T.B. Walker and his wife Harriet were donated. Their other art work was donated to the art museum. These are priceless works of art and when the church was built in 1914, they created a room just for them. This room is used today for worship each Sunday and for weddings and other events and is open to the public.

We stopped into the chapel where I took this other dark photo of the organ pipes and windows. It is a beautiful space for worship.

We finished the afternoon with Reverend David Lose who I always appreciate. His reflections on his website never fail to make me think. He began today by saying that every person is hit with 30,000 words a day whether by listening and talking or by reading or by social media. Finding words and using words as a preacher sometimes has us wondering if our words have value or meaning. He encouraged us that indeed they do!

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Sunday Service, Celebration of Graduates

Yesterday’s service at 11:00 was packed, literally! So packed that there is not much of sermon (with about 57 minutes and a few seconds of actual television time) my sermon ended up being maybe 9 minutes. I was editing and cutting on the fly. So I suppose I could say unlike what Otis Moss III said at the Festival of Homiletics, this particular sermon was not a work of art.

The good news for me, is that worship is not always about the sermon. The proclamation of the Word is important of course, but so is the music, the liturgy, the prayers and the commissioning.

Sunday, we celebrated our graduates, our scholarship recipients, commissioned a mission team and blessed two young women as they prepared to go on the United Methodist Women’s MET (Mission Education Tour) tour. Our youth director sang “Go the Distance”  as a dedication and blessing. It was a beautiful morning.

The link to the service is here  First UMC Worship

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Festival of Homiletics, Thursday’s Thoughts

Thursday was filled with pretty diverse speakers; a preaching professor, a local pastor, a president of a seminary and a New Testament professor. Almost sounds a bad joke….you know the one that starts with all of them walking into a bar. My colleague, Randy Quinn, senior pastor of West Heights UMC, posts weekly “Quips and Quotes.” I love reading them each week and I have kind of used that idea in the back of my head as I have shared my ramblings from the Festival of Homiletics. I don’t share all my notes, just a few I intend to chew on some more over the next days and weeks.

 Choosing each day from 2 speakers or worship services is a exercise in discernment, because they are all so good. The other exercise in figuring out what to right down because the information comes so quickly and I hate missing any part of it. Having said that, by mid afternoon yesterday my mind was mush and I just couldn’t quite write things down. The delight at the end of the day was the Beer and Hymns event, followed with good time with colleagues.

Karoline Lewis:

Karoline focused on incarnation and proclamation. Why do we need to reconnect them? 

“We live in a time we cannot afford perching from assumptions. Often the loudest voices are talking about God as if God is not in the room.”

“We need to preach with something theological at stake, for that is at the heart of incarnation preaching.”

“Faith is not a point, it is a presence.”

“Biblical texts were meant to be heard, not read. When we read it, we don’t listen to it.”

“Sermons are not papers.”

“Our job is not to figure out if our sermon is good or not, that’s up to God, we are called to be faithful.”

Matt Skinner

Matt’s sermon was on the text Matthew 9:35-10:23. As a New Testament scholar it was filled with excellent information and insight into Matthew’s world view. Matthew’s community’s concern was reflected in their need to know they were safe or right. The tendency was to be careful as to who was part of the community and who was not. 

“The history of the church tends to be preoccupation with that’s that stop our wonder and stifles our faith. ”

“Fear is an idolaty’s most effective evangelist.”

“What is the lasting good of the this gospel/ Christ promises to be with us always.”

Adam Hamilton

Adam has a new book out, but the workshop I attended was focused preaching. He said, “I am constantly looking for ways to do it better and new ways to engage the world and the congregation better.”

David Lose

David’s lecture was about Proclaiming Truth in an Alt-Fact World. This whole week actually has been about how to proclaim the gospel, the good news in a world where it is very difficult to discern what is “real” and what is “news.”

“The internet has fulfilled its promise that anyone can create information, disseminate it and create a following. We are also in an age of information overload.” 

“Because of our information overload, we tend to react to that information and fill our news feeds only with those who confirm our own bias.”

“It is now difficult to standardize or legitimize our sources, and our own processes and information may not be well vetted.”

“How do we proclaim truth when truth is completely and utterly contested?” 

HERE WAS PERHAPS THE BEST THINGS HE SAID AFTER THAT QUESTION:   I Don’t KNOW.

“Using facts and figures and trying to argue doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but stories do.Often when I tend to preach on justice around an issue I care about, it paints everyone who disagrees with me unjust.”

“What can we do? Primarily, we proclaim God’s presence and love and grace for all of us. we witness to Jesus as best we can in word and deed.”

Thursday evening was Beer and Hymns with the Fleshpots of Egypt! So much fun and it was amazing to hear that many voices raised in song. A couple of pictures from that event:


And a video (not great, but gives a sense of what happened.

To say my heart and soul are filled would be an understatement. I am energized and ready to get back to church and to work. I say it often enough, I am so honored and privileged each week to serve as a pastor. It is a gift to be given space to get away and learn and grow. 

Only in Texas, I suspect, would there be “fortune tacos.” I received one on Tuesday and slipped in my bag. 

I finally opened it up last evening and this is what it said:

I guess it is. I am so grateful to Lutheran Seminsary and all those who helped make the Festival of Homiletics possible.

I am graced to serve

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Festival of Homiletics, Wednesday’s thoughts

Having been several times, I know the Festival is always filled with so many good speakers and workshops and opportunities. I also know that sometimes the ones I choose may not be all I hoped. The words of the priest from Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark go through my head, “Choose Wisely” and then the next line, “he choose poorly.” I don’t think, really, there are poor choices at the Festival, but that doesn’t mean I am not sometimes disappointed. Yet, I probably won’t change my way of choosing. If I have heard someone before, even if they are spectacular, I will often opt to listen to a newer speaker, someone I am not familiar with. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t, but I suspect those who as “so good” may not have been that good the first time. Like one speaker said yesterday a preacher should be in the same category as “artist.”

Having said that, other than one speaker, I was absolutely moved yesterday by the preaching and the workshops. Some of my notes from yesterday with an acknowledgement they are as close to direct quotes as possible! If you want to get some other highlights, you can tracke the festival on Twitter:  #festivalofhomiletics2017

Raquel St. Clair Lettsome is an amazing preacher, powerful, articulate and brought me to tears. That is saying something, I don’t cry often. As she began her sermon she said something I really resonated with, perhaps most preachers do:

I am not a marathon runner or long distance runner, but I get in a couple of miles everyday. I swear the longest. Walk I ever take is from my chair to the pulpit! 

Her take on the Good Samaritan story was powerful and is beyond my ability to recount. However she noted:

In the Good Samaritan story, while the others walked by the Samaritan came close, that didn’t mean he was safe, he just felt safe in that moment. He might have scars from his own encounters on the Jericho road, but broken hurting people are not exempted from carrying other broken bodies. We need more Samaritans to come close to help one another especially when it is risky, we need them close enough to hear, to help and to heal.

Micah Jackson is a preaching professor also dedicated to the wellness of clergy. He noted that if preachers believe it is good for their folk to hear the word broken up and preached regularly, the same applies to the preacher!  He said:

“If this week feels like a cool drink of Walter on a hot Texas day, that’s how it is supposed to be for your soul.”

His presentation was on conversational preaching. 

“It is not enough to say something, maybe the congregation has. A role: people need to hear and have their lives transformed.”

“It is the cooperative principles: everyone in the conversation understand that they are cooperating the in process. There are several conversation partners: the scripture, the news, what is happening in your community and in the world, the Spirit.”

“In worship everyone gets a turn to speak: prayers, the liturgy, the choir, the soloist and musicians, the sermon and if done right even the congregation.”

Lisa Thompson preached on Ezekiel 37 and the dry bones. 

“How do you know what you know? You don’t until you do.” 

“God invites us to come and play, come and make life with God. God will not let us back off, once the Spirit breathes into us, we can’t back up,, we are called to proclaim life, to Speak Life, Pursue Life, Let the life giving Spirit in.”

Otis Moss III used my favorite modern mythology “Star Wars” to lecture on the call of the preachers. So many quotable sentences, some of my favorites:

“Both the Sith and the Jedi draw from the same power, the difference is perspective, most of us want to be Jedi, but we tend to be chaplains for the Empire, not prophets of the Rebellion.”

“Preachers all struggle with the dark side want to be liked and are afraid that people will leave. Ever preacher will have some one leave sooner or later and if no one has left, you are no preacher.”

“At best we plant seeds and we may not every see the tree that grows or eat the fruit, but we have eaten the fruit that others have planted and the least we can do is plant for those who follow.”

“We are Sith and Jedi, dark and light we have Jedi potential and Sith tendencies. We need a amaster to teach us, the good news is that Jesus doesn’t mind teaching people with Sith tendencies.”

“Preachers should be artists, poets and painters. Every sermon should be a work of art.”

I bought some books and a couple of stoles which is the other wonderful reason to be here, the resources available.

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Festival of Homiletics, First Night and Day

I am attending the Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, Texas for the next few days. It began on Monday evening and I have many notes and have instagramed some photos as well as “tweeted” out a few comments. This is my fourth or fifth time of attending. The best of the best “preachers” are highlighted and they lecture and preach usually using the lectionary but not always.

The event is fun, amazing, overwhelming and I always come away re-energized for ministry. It is not possible to hear everyone, so I have to pick and choose who I want to experience each time. Monday night Walter Brueggemann preached and he was powerful. He was followed by Rob Bell who is provocative and creative. 

My take away from Monday:

“Our evangelical metric is not building or numbers or budgets or pensions: IT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD. The weakness and vulnerability of God as experienced in the cross is filled with transformative power.” 1 Corinthians 1: 10-31. Walter Brueggemann

“The sermon creates a space where people are hungry and thirsty for something they didn’t know they were hungry and thirsty for….in the sermon all kinds of things happen in that space that are way bigger than you and me.”    Rob Bell

My take away from Tuesday

“The context of our proclamation of the Word is that we are in a Post Truth era, we need Wisdom , Biblical wisdom. Fake news is conflictional and confirms our own bias, biblical wisdom is collaborative and acknowledges both human limits and Divine transcendence.”   Alyce McKenzie

“Preaching is always pastoral.” “In the Bible, I am always looking for something that will break my hear.” “I use feminine and masculine images and language for God not so everyone feels comfortable, but so everyone has a chance to feel uncomfortable.” “Violence and evil may have the news cycles but it doesn’t have our hearts….it doesn’t have the ture victory, Christ has the victory.”   Nadia Bolz-Weber

“The theological reason for bring the newspaper/politics into the pulpit is to make the connection between the love and justice of God and the world that needs it.” “Our people are bringing the weight of the world in with them each Sunday morning and when we ignor this we lack integrity.”  Amy Butler

I have MANY more quotes, but those are the ones residing heavily in my heart and spirit. I am excited to see what God will place in my mind and heart and spirit today.  

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