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Festival of Homiletics Reflections: Joseph Lowery, Yvette Flunder

Wednesday at the Festival wrapped up with Joseph Lowery, of Civil Rights Movement fame, and Yvette Flunder. I’ve heard Lowery at workshops and events before. He’s an intriguing person. I had to listen from the lobby because my laptop was out of battery, so my notes are more sparse. Joe said, “No matter what you call me, I know who I am.” He said that if his generation was about “We Shall Overcome,” that administration of this generation seems to be, “We Shall Overturn.” Lowery will be 86 this year, and he’s spent many many years working for justice.


I’d not heard of Yvette Flunder before. She preached about Sarah and Hagar, asking if we have to think God can only bless one or the other. She said we have a ‘both/and’ God and not an ‘either/or’ God. She talked about how much we always want to know “what side” people are on, like around issues of sexuality. “Choose your side. Choose your folks. Pick your folks and agree with them. Choose which you are.” She has a background/upbringing in fundamental theology, and she said that “fundamentalism explains why x and y can both happen at the same time.” Of fundamental theology, “We sought to find one answer to all things theological.”

“Can God bless the offspring of both Sarah and Hagar?” she asked. “When God blesses them [someone and/or both Sarah/Hagar], do we get the ‘Jonah depression?’” (Remember, Jonah was upset about God’s mercy and grace toward the people of Nineveh. He wanted a little wrath.)

Talking about the creation story of the Garden of Eden, she said, “Much of religion is stuck at the wrong tree. We shouldn’t be at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We should be at the tree of life. The folks who tend the tree are the gatekeepers for whoever comes to the tree for what is right/wrong. The real test is: what tree really brings life? Search for that – eat from that – liturgy/hermeneutic/etc. – that brings life.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” she asked, “if we didn’t make an idol of the books but honored the God that is named in the books.”


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