Tag Archives: Otis Moss III

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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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, 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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