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Festival of Homiletics 2019, Day 1 and 2

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.

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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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