It’s hard to believe a third of my sabbatical has gone by already. The Festival of Homiletics was wonderful with lots of food for thought. I need to eventually get back to my notes and see what they inspire after sitting for awhile. After the Festival I’ve been traveling a bit with stops at Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands National Monument, Chiricahua National Monument, and Saguaro National Park. I’ve also been spent visiting old friends in Phoenix, Arizona, with a few days just to rest as well as side trips to Sedona, Arizona, Tonto National Monument, and the Phoenix Zoo. All the while I’ve also been working with my publisher on getting my book ready for publication. It’s looking like the publication date will be around the end of June.
It’s really been a wonderful trip. I’ll be starting the multi-day drive home tomorrow. It looks like June will largely be occupied by moving to a new apartment and I still have the Wild Goose Festival scheduled for July. And then there’s book-related stuff… I’m also still hopeful I can make time for some writing, reflection, and creating some better habits with my personal spiritual practices. I’m excited for these next two months and beyond. Wherever the Divine might lead, I know I must follow.
The second full day of the Festival is done. Who knew listening to great speakers could be so exhausting? After beginning Monday evening with Walter Brueggemann and Rob Bell, I began Tuesday with hearing great talks from Brueggemann again as well as Nadia Bolz-Weber. Then after finding lunch on San Antonio’s Riverwalk I went back for another lecture but could barely keep my eyes open. Went back to my hotel about 3:30 and just took it easy for the rest of the day. Today I heard Brian McLaren, Otis Moss III, and Craig Satterlee (who gave a great talk about preaching about money). All of the above speakers have been incredibly inspiring with lots to say about preaching and the future of Christianity and I have lots of notes to try to digest. Might have to buy the recordings of a couple of the lectures. Most of them fit well with my sabbatical goal of reflecting on who/what I am called to be/do as a minister. I just need time to take in what was said and meditate on it. I’m tired enough at the end of the day that I’m not sure reflection would be very fruitful but I’ve got lots of sabbatical left. To my preaching friends, I’d highly recommend coming to this Festival someday.
After 2 days of long drives I arrived in San Antonio for the Festival of Homiletics. Yes, a festival for and about preachers and preaching. 1800 church nerds. I got here early enough I had time to walk around the Riverwalk, have lunch, and take a nap before the first night’s gatherings. First up with the sermon in opening worship was Walter Brueggemann who talked about church shibboleths – how we identify ourselves – and how we’ve been getting it wrong (hint: church isn’t supposed to be about collecting power and wealth but about love and justice). Then Rob Bell gave a lecture about the craft of preaching. He talked about how we’re all connected and not just observers, how we need to notice what’s happening around us, and how we are called to create space for others to feel those connections. Both speakers were great and I took notes (better than the summaries above) so I can mull over some of the good points later. But what was really apparent and intriguing to me was their respective styles. Brueggeman stood at the pulpit and mostly looked down at his notes as he spoke. Bell was engaging and humorous, roaming the stage without any notes at all, and knew how to work the crowd. But there was a lot of fluff. Brueggeman had just as much of import to say in his 15 minutes as Bell did in his hour. I wouldn’t say one was better than the other. They were both captivating and inspiring in their own ways. I would happily listen to either of them again. Maybe the conclusion here, and what we need to remember as preachers, is that the message is what’s important, not the box it comes in.
What does it mean to call yourself a Christian? A month or so ago this question came up in a couple of different conversations in the span of a few days. In one of those conversations I was a little surprised when a person who has been around progressive Christianity circles for many years answered the question in a very traditional way. For them, to be a Christian meant to believe the right doctrines – to believe in and accept Jesus as a personal savior who died for our sins to save us from hell and to believe in teachings such as the virgin birth and bodily resurrection. Unfortunately, this definition of Christian that they were taught as a child was so deeply ingrained in their psyche that they couldn’t see past it nor live up to it. I believe that this is a common experience in our world today and, as a Christian minister for whom this path has been incredibly meaningful, it saddens me.
This and other conversations got me to thinking once again about what does it mean to be a Christian. Continue reading
How did it get to be day 8 of my sabbatical already? So far I’ve finished final edits on my upcoming book. Next step is to finalize formatting, cover, etc. Also spent a couple of days visiting family. Read a mindless fantasy novel. Other than that, just kind of been doing normal every day stuff. No profound revelations 🙂 Leave Saturday for the Festival of Homiletics and then do a little sight seeing and visit friends. Still want to carve out time for reading, writing, reflection, and maybe a little golf. And need to work on moving sometime in the next couple months. Lots to do so I need to set some priorities…