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Festival of Homiletics: M. Craig Barnes

Finally getting back to Festival of Homiletics notes. Another standout was Craig Barnes, Presbyterian pastor and faculty at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I heard Barnes lecture and preach, and he was funny, pastoral (and grounded in pastoring, rather than some speakers that have been faculty only and out of the congregational ministry for long enough that they don't connect as strongly with everyday life), and inspiring. Notes below:

Lecture: “Finding Your Congregation in the Text”

Trying to give “application points” at end of sermon to reach each person’s needs actually not helpful. Sermon begins long before you step into the pulpit.

*You* are the one who has the authority to preach to your congregation – no one else! Because you are the one who knows them, who carries them, etc.

The holy spirit works on applications in people’s lives.

“Bad, bad dog” sermons. Only “golden retriever” congregations like that!

We’re trying to present conversations so that the sermon spirals between text and context. Text is what you are trained in. Context is what you know because you gave the congregation your heart. If you are talking about word of God without talking about how it *is*, you are violating incarnation. But if you only talk about how it is, you are wallowing in hopelessness.

Figuring out subtext all week – move to what is beneath the text. Preachers are parish-poets. See everything that lies just beneath veneer of ordinary, and can express this in ways received not only in brain but also in soul.

What is said and what is meant. Can’t find out what it means unless you find your congregation in text. It is kerygmatic – living word for this time in this place. TS Eliot – “Major poets” like Elijah, Augustine, MLK. Most of us are “minor poets,” making sense of the “Major poets’” poetry. Pastor-poet makes sense of words from our tradition in light of dust and grit of daily parish life.

What it means to be ordained: open the doors of soul to the pathos of people pastor has vowed to love.

Mixing of sacred visions and ordinary experiences. All week long, spinning the poetry.

Presenting issue is seldom the real issue. Vision.

Pastors get a “license to eavesdrop.” Collecting lines! And then when you approach text, you see congregation there. Must preach the narrative that you are given both from the congregation and the text.


Sermon:When Christians Are Embarrassing

Philippians 1:12-18a

Intolerant. Intolerant of intolerance.

Paul: Even if they embarrass the church, it doesn’t matter, as long as Christ is proclaimed.

Younger Paul might have complained, but not in later years. Has discovered that JC is the only Savior of the church, and he can use anything to bring about salvation, even those who distort the message. Rejoice that Christ is proclaimed at all.

The mission of JC is not thwarted by those who distort message, nor is it particularly helped by those who are right! It succeeds because JC is resurrected, ascended, and reigns!

“You will be my witnesses.” – Jesus. Mostly what witnesses do it witness! But we’ve turned witnesses into saviors/messiahs.

The witness just talks about what he/she sees. As a judge would say, the last thing you want is for a witness to get creative. Action, yes, throwing self into midst of Justice, KoG, of course. But we are not the ones creating the salvation.

Even when we get it right, we are not “all that necessary” to the work of Christ.

Some proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, says Paul, and some out of love.

We are more worried about being right than we are about being loving, and that is always wrong.

Why does the church not have the capacity to reflect the capacity for gracious inclusion of Jesus Christ? Jesus is dying to love those who nailed him to the cross. That’s what’s at the center. And when you know what’s at the center, you don’t have to worry so much about the boundaries. Which is our biggest focus, energy waster, in the church. But when you don’t know where church stops and world starts, that’s good. The church will hold by its center, and the center will hold, which is Jesus Christ, otherwise definitely would not still be around.

Sem prof – “If you want to be the light of the world, you have to expect to attract a few bugs.”

Pulling apart passion and conviction – that’s embarrassing most of all to Jesus Christ.

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