22 May 2008

Festival of Homiletics: Almost Everyone Rocks, Except Me

I've had some great continuing education experiences over the past almost-five years of ministry. A week studying Bonhoeffer at Luther Seminary. A one-day seminar with Tom Long. But nothing has every been as completely rocktacular as this week's Festival of Homiletics. There's simply too much good stuff to thoroughly cover, so I'll give a brief summary.

First, the shirt experiment has been a partial success. I did wear the "Christians have the best sects" shirt to Wednesday's sessions, and because of the shirt I met Cheesehead, Grace By The Sea, RevKim and RevDave. But, like a schmo, I stumbled through my shower and dressing this morning and FORGOT TO WEAR THE JESUS SHIRT. So those who were looking for it went hungry today (cue the "stupid stupid stupid stupid" voice in my head, an all-too-familiar voice). So, the quest to meet lots of blogger pals here has only been a partial success.

I did, however, experience a rather terrifying moment when Dr. Mark Throntveit, one of my Old Testament professors, met me at the Luther Seminary reception with, "Hey, how are you? I read your blog!" Thankfully, he followed that comment with "It's good - you're actually doing theology with it." Nice to hear, especially from one whose opinion I've always trusted.

Today I got to have lunch with several Lutheran campus ministry colleagues at The Local, an Irish pub in downtown Minneapolis. Good time. And yesterday I ate lunch on Peavey Plaza with former colleagues from Minnesota while the Minnesota Orchestra played a lunchtime concert in their bandshell below. As a bonus, my friend Doug Carlsen walked by where we were standing after the concert and we got to do a quick catch-up. If you ever have the chance to hear the MN Orchestra perform, DO IT. They're great musicians and good folks, too, if Doug is any indication of the quality of their people.

Someone once described a class with Dr. Rollie Martinson as "drinking from a fire hose." Well, after Walter Brueggemann's lecture, I now have two persons for whom I think the metaphor is appropriate. WOW. I've got an entire page of notes from his lecture, and I don't generally take many notes at these things. Among the notable quotes were "Our modern pathology is marked by self-sufficiency, nihilism, autonomy and conformity," "The preacher's task is to present a case for hopeful resistance" and "well-framed people (framed by an understanding of God as a God of Exuberant Generosity and Inexhaustible Well-Being) can become protagonists in the contradiction of the world in which we live." Sheesh - no wonder my friend Justin says he has a man-crush on the guy.

Ditto Bishop Mark Hanson, who preached yesterday afternoon. Quotes: "Tranquility is not the sign of vital ministry." and "Nostalgia for an idealized past disparages the actual present." I was especially happy when the announced "coffee with the Bishop" produced several hundred ELCA pastors and preachers, enough that we were required to move from the community room to the sanctuary of Central Lutheran Church.

In that meeting Bishop Hanson talked about the filming of In God's Name and the generally positive reaction to his participation. Here's the thing I loved about the show: Bishop Hanson made us Lutherans look really, really good, the kind of folks I'd want to investigate if I were a person trying to figure out this faith and religion thing. But, as Lutherans are wont to do, Bishop Hanson's friends did have a bit of fun with this picture:

They suggested that the caption should read as follows: "Where the hell did I leave my car?" Yep, that's the kind of guy we've got in the big office in Chicago, and I'm pretty happy about it.

Bishop William Willimon also delivered the goods today. Notable quotes: "The Bible is content to let the complicated remain complicated." "Scripture is God's attempt to regain control of us." and "Preaching is training in following Jesus, not understanding Jesus." These are just the quotes I managed to write down - his lecture is one I'll be ordering on CD because it was funny and prophetic and provocative and lots of things I need to be poked on when it comes to my preaching.

Barbara Brown Taylor was also magnificent in preaching on the Great Commission, Matthew 28.16-20. She's just flat-out awesome.

In fact, thus far I've only been disappointed in one speaker, and I've heard some others who were happy with her presentation, so perhaps it was just me. I've skipped the evening sessions the last two nights because, frankly, I'm full - I can't take any more information in until I get a chance to rest and unplug for a while. So, I'm going to turn off the computer, get a Diet Coke and watch a movie with my beloved wife. Tomorrow is Lutheran Wrap-Up Day at the Festival, with Mary Hinkle Shore, David Lose and Fred Gaiser; should be a treat all around.



  1. now you leave me wondering...

    I have been exhausted too.

  2. Each time I have heard Bishop Hanson he has been tremendous. Our Presiding Bishop is an excellent speaker and preacher.

    I wish I could say the same for Will Willimon. I have heards him several times, and even spent a few days in workshops with him, but still find him to be hard to follow. He goes off on tangents too easily and often stammers over words. At least that has been my experience.

    Having said that, Willimon is a great writer and I have enjoyed many of his books.

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  4. Dang it, I DID look for your tee shirt.

    I was struck by many of the same quotes and I also have pages of notes!

    I so wanted to hear Naomi Tutu last night, but I was exhausted and skipped it, sadly, hoping to rise full of vim and vigor and head over for this morning's final offerings. Alas, while my daughter woke me at 7 a.m., I could not drag myself out of bed! It is almost noon and I am still dragging.

    If I am able to attend another of these I will have to skip more sessions than I did this time. But it was all so good I didn't want to miss anything!

    Sorry I missed meeting you, and I'm also sad that I spent so little time with Rev Gals and Pals in general. Two thousand people??? Whew, no wonder we were uncomfortably crammed in everywhere

  5. sorry i missed you...as i was an undercover participant thursday at willimon's afternoon lecture. i attended in 2006 in atlanta and by the end of the day tuesday my brain was full, but still enjoyed the ride, including lunch with d lose and a handful of luther folks, as well as the chance to spend time with friends from the atlanta area. i decided then and there that i would attend again, but that i needed to space these encounters out every few years. who knows, maybe 2010 will be the year.

  6. I saw you today but didn't say hi because 1) you were talking to someone else, and 2) you don't really know me. I enjoyed your comments on the lectures. Due to my migraine, I didn't take the kind of notes on Wednesday that I wanted to, so it was great to read what you gleaned.

    hope you enjoyed today. Mary Hinkle Shore came on after I graduated, so I appreciated the chance to hear her preach. I took a continuing education class from David Lose a couple of year ago. And I never took a class from Fred Gaiser, but heard him give the most wonderful lecture once: on the old testament concept of the self/or the soul.

  7. Cheese pointed you out to me, showed me your post about what t-shirts you would wear each day and I STILL DIDN'T GET TO MEET you!

    So many people, so many beautiful worship/lecture moments in very few days.

    I'm so glad I went to the Fest!

    Next year, I'll introduce myself to you in Atlanta.

  8. I think I spotted you too. There was a LOT of good material to contemplate wasn't there?

    I hope I get to meet you in Atlanta.