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.
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