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.