You may know that in May I went to the Festival of Homiletics, a weeklong chance for preachers to gather from all over the country to learn from the best! I got to hear fabulous sermons preached 2-3 times/day, with additional lectures each day on preaching. Lots of worship, and so much time with other clergy colleagues – it was wonderful. You can see more about it on their website.
The focus of this year’s festival was on “Preaching and Politics” – and what a perfect year for this emphasis. I have never heard preachers preaching to a church full of preachers (try saying THAT 10 times fast!). They spoke to us as siblings in the work of answering our call by God as we each understand it, knowing that we wrestle all the time between the pastoral and the prophetic: the relationship with our churches that comforts and companions as well as the relationship that challenges and inspires. What is the right balance between meeting our church families where they are, and inviting all of you more deeply into the life of discipleship?
They talked to us about how Jesus came to heal and love, but also to send us out into the world living righteous lives, living deeply into what God has been calling us to through prophets and teachers across the millennium. If we do it right, that means at times we are comforted and at times we are very uncomfortable. It’s not enough to be decent, good people (though that is certainly part of it!) but we also must work for a just society that cares for the ones Jesus loved most: children, the powerless, the brokenhearted, the poor, those who were exiled and marginalized, those who were in prison, those who were sick. As Jesus shone a light on these beloved ones, and challenged those in power to do right by them, he stirred up trouble all the way to the top. After all, it was Jesus’ revolutionary teachings that led to his trial and execution by the state.
We then got invited to put our bodies where our preachers were leading us. A powerful initiative called “Reclaiming Jesus in a Time of Crisis” was launched by a number of progressive Christian church “elders” that week, including many of the powerful preachers we had with us but also Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of America. He had just gotten national attention for his dynamic and energized preaching at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – perhaps you saw it the weekend before, as I did? After an inspiring worship led by Bishop Curry and others, I got to walk with them to the White House in a silent procession by candlelight. The Declaration was read aloud in front of the White House that night. People asked me later, “Do you think the President will be impacted by it, and your vigil?” I said to them what I say to you: I do not know. But I hope it will speak to the American people and show them that Christianity has a progressive voice that is alive and well, and it is bold.
Here is the Declaration – I invite you to read it and discuss it, share it with friends.
We each will do it in the way that is right for us, but I encourage and affirm each one of you as you walk this discipleship path with Pastor Pam and me to open your heart to the way the teachings of Jesus expand and change you, away past fear and worry and on to greater capacity for hospitality, extravagant welcome, bold inclusivity, and barrier-breaking love.
In fervent hope and joy,