Friday, June 08, 2007

Festival of Homiletics Reflections: Bishop William Willimon

Next up on the busy Friday morning at the Festival was Bishop William Willimon – dubbing himself (jokingly) “our slice of red velvet cake.”

I read in preparation for ordination Willimon's Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry and Pastor: A Reader for Ordained Ministry, and found them to be extremely helpful for clarifying my understanding of ordination.

When Willimon opened early with the statement, “The United Nations is one of the most boring organizations in the world," I thought we probably weren't going to get along. But things got better...

Here are some fairly unedited notes:
You ask God at the opening of worship to descend among us, and every now and then, God answers.

Prophetic speech comes with the descent of the Holy Spirit. Preaching can be transformational because God is. That's why we have the chairs bolted down in worship.

Sabbath – important during exile, keeping Israel fixed as Israel. By NT, Sabbath is an issue – Jesus is not keeping Sabbath holy. “It’s another Sabbath with Jesus.” Breaking commandment against it.

It is the nature of the Trinity to protrude, move, disrupt, dislodge, create friction between our ways and God’s ways. As clergy, we sometimes think it is our role to negotiate this space. “'I’m a pastor, I’m a reconciler of troubled waters.' Well great, try nursing or something. We’re working with a living God.”

Difference between a true God and a false God is that a true God can still shock you. An idol is just a projection of your own wants/needs/desires. Pastors lessen conflict? God provokes conflict.

God moving on from a place. I don’t know why God moves on from places. Painful. But God can’t be leased into our pet projects.

Trinity is a renewable resource for energy.

Proverbs – “like being on a long trip with your mother.” Proverbs – “this way is a better life than that life.” A lot of preaching today is in the wisdom mode – basically what you get is principles that are allegedly derived from scriptures to help you make it through the world. Just helpful principles. “Power-point preaching.” “3/4/5 Biblical principles to help you at work/in your marriage/etc.” “We don’t have any happy marriages in the Bible!” “I wish being a Christian were that easy . . .” I come to the Bible with my life projects and look for help with what I’m doing. Scripture may not be happy with my life as presently constituted. The gutsy willingness to let Jesus walk among the people. Not an encounter with principles, but with a person. A person who calls your name, calls you out, intrudes.

“Methodists aren’t going to do homework!”

Purpose Driven Life: “There. That’s easier than the Trinity.” “I have discovered the way that will help you keep Jesus white.”

We think preaching is about lessening the cognitive dissonance that exists between us and the gospel. That we’re to make the gospel receivable. That we can make people think “Huh, Jesus makes sense. I can use Jesus to get what I wanted before I confronted the gospel.” Jesus says to preachers, “would you get out of the way?”
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