I am in Nashville this week, attending the 2010 Festival of Homiletics with a fellow pastor from Japan. I’ll be posting daily entries if I can keep up.
Day 1: Pastor Hirano and I started the day in Shinagawa at the monthly meeting of the sekkyo juku, a homiletical study group lead by Japan’s best known preacher and teacher of preaching, Tsuneaki Kato. We left at noon and headed for the airport. After a 12 hour flight to Atlanta and a 1 hour connection to Nashville we arrived just in time to get checked into our hotel, get registered and attend the opening session at 7:30PM. Yup, that was one very long day!
Music was provided by 3 time Grammy winner Ashley Cleveland and the incredible Beth Nielsen Chapman. If you don’t know them just google it! Also the 17 year old jazz sax phenom, Grace Kelly added to the celebration.
The preacher was Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Preaching from Exodus 14:12 she challenged us to “speak truth to the powers”, noting that we are called to revolutionary preaching that challenges the status quo, because there is always “a Word from the Lord”! Amen!
The concluding event for the evening was a lecture by one of my former teachers, and well known homelitician, Anna Carter Florence. She fascinated us with her exegesis of the 5th chapter of Mark. Her inspiration came from a question that very few preachers ever ask of that text, but one that she repeatedly heard when reading with lay people. “Why do some people get to tell others about Jesus and others don’t?” In particular, why is Jairus prohibited from telling others about Jesus raising his daughter from the dead, while the Gerasene demoniac, the woman who was cured of a 12 year hemorrhage and the 12 year old daughter are not? After debunking the “Messianic secret” answer that most theologians would offer she went on to point out that it had to do with authority. The reason we preachers don’t like to ask that question is because we assume that we do have the authority to tell people about Jesus. Ouch!
In the case of the man formerly known as the Gerasene Demoniac, nobody would think of him as a prime choice for being a convincing evangelist, but never the less Jesus orders him to go home and tell his friends (as if he had any!) what happened simply because it was HIS story. Who else could tell it?
The case of the 12 year old girl was similar. She wasn’t exactly a prime candidate to be an evangelist either (a child, a female…) but if her father was allowed to tell the story she probably would never get the chance do so herself. And in the end, it was HER story!
As for the healed woman, all Jesus does is state a charge, a benediction, and thereby serves notice to the community. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” And there is no question in anyone’s mind that she set about telling everyone about HER story; the whole story.
Mark’s point seems to be that the power to speak comes from the very middle of your life, where you have met Jesus. Anna suggested that we view these people as action figures that state their purpose with their very poses. We should view the “hemorrhaging woman figure” when we are doing our own hemorrhaging before we preach; i.e. during the sermon preparation process. Then remember the “healed demoniac figure” as we preach, reminding ourselves that if anyone is going to believe the gospel we proclaim, it certainly isn’t because of who we are. Finally, we can take the “12 year old girl who died figure” and give it to those in our congregation on whom we’ve given up, thus letting them tell THEIR stories.
To say we received a lot to chew on in one evening is an enormous understatement!
Stay tuned for Day 2.