Festival of Homiletics, Day 5

3 comments Written on May 21st, 2010     
Filed under: homiletics
The festival concluded today, and for us it was a rushed morning followed by yet another surprise.
At the morning worship service the liturgy was led by the eclectic and highly acclaimed John Bell, who was supposed to have been here all week but ending up being delayed until Thursday evening due to another cloud of volcanic ash that shut down the London airport. Then the sermon was given by Bishop William Willimon, whom we interviewed yesterday. He preached a Pentecost sermon from Acts entitled Inebriated Homiletics. He talked about why so many people depend on alcohol to get thru the difficult parts of life. In one anecdote he recounted asking a senior clergy how to go about preparing seminarians for a more meaningful practice of the Eucharist, to which the senior clergy replied;
“Start with cooking classes.”
“Why on earth would you do that?” exclaimed the young Willimon.
“How else will they ever understand what it means to prepare a table and serve a meal.” he responded. “And then offer lessons in bar tending.”
“You’ve got to be kidding!” says Willimon incredulously.
“Wasn’t that what Jesus was doing in preparing the cup and passing it around?”
“But you can’t be serious.” objects Willimon. “People get drunk in bars.”
“Uh huh… and how do people act when they get drunk?”
“Well, that depends on the person.”
“Go on.”
“Some people get all friendly and gregarious, putting their arms around everyone; and then they start singing.”
“But others get all quiet and drawn into themselves, pensive like.”
“And then others get abrasive and belligerent, ready to pick a fight.”
“Aren’t those exactly the things you would hope for in your church when the Spirit is as work?” responded the senior clergy and young Willimon finally got it.

Being a Christian is actually harder than just living life normally. So for all the same reasons that many people look to chemicals for the help they need, we who follow Christ are also desperately in need of some help. We simply make it on our own.

When the apostles were filled with the Spirit on Pentecost and began speaking boldly in foreign languages the people thought they were drunk. Peter responded, “No, we’re not drunk. It’s only 9AM. Of course we’re not drunk!”
Ya, well Peter lied!
End of sermon…

How’s that for a conclusion that catches you off guard?
We had an airport shuttle to catch and so we slipped out right after the sermon and ran up the hill to the hotel three blocks away and got there just in time to catch the shuttle and totally out of breath. We made good time getting to the airport and were pleased to find no lines at the check in counter. We were scheduled to leave at 11:45AM for a flight to Detroit, where we would catch the homebound flight to Narita… except, the flight to Detroit was delayed more than an hour. The ground crew at check in looked thru the entire flight schedule with every rerouting option she could think of, and then began checking alternate airlines. Alas, ours was the last flight to Narita from anywhere and there simply were no options but to wait a day. We had our choice of spending the night in Los Angeles or here in Nashville so we chose the latter and glumly gathered our luggage and headed to the hotel shuttle stop. The driver was a cheerful sort who beamed a smile and said, “Welcome to Nashville!”… I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but fortunately he hardly gave us a chance as he basically shared his entire life story with us during the 10 minute drive back to the hotel. (Why are Americans so weird like that anyway…)

Well, the good part is that Delta Airlines put us up in a really nice hotel… much nicer than the one we actually paid for and stayed at for the past 4 days. And they even gave us 3 meal vouchers redeemable at any vendor. Imagine that! I guess the only glitch is that each meal voucher is good for up to, get this.., $6! Our light lunch at the hotel restaurant pretty much used up our entire voucher budget. Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t complain about everything. Actually the delay is not nearly as much trouble for me as it is for Pastor Hirano. He was scheduled to preach on Sunday, which of course is Pentecost Sunday. And they are receiving two new members into their congregation during the worship service as well. So it was his recently hired, very young and inexperienced associate pastor who got the dreaded phone call at around midnight on Friday Tokyo time, telling him of his sudden change in duties for Sunday morning. As much trouble as it is, Pastor Hirano appeared to have a distinct smirk on his face as he made the tough phone call…

Thanks for following my reports from the Festival of Homiletics. I highly recommend it for any of you who are preachers or interested in preaching. Next year it will be in Minneapolis. Go to goodpreacher.com to learn more.

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3 comments “Festival of Homiletics, Day 5”

I heard a report from the festival from someone who was offended by Willimon’s jokes about drinking. I’m curious if you understand that reaction after hearing first hand?

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Willimon is known for having a very dry (no pun intended) and irreverent sense of humor. There is very little in the church at which he refused to poke fun. Yes, he joked that he had written some of his scholarly work when he was drunk, and that he had claimed to have been drunk when giving poor pastoral advice in the past; but it was pretty clear that these were jokes. In fact, he poignantly highlighted the plight of alcohol abuse on college campuses and his attempts to address the problem. He also talked seriously about the painful situations that lead people to seek out chemical assistance. And perhaps one of the funniest comments was about Presbyterians. He said, “I don’t know why Presbyterians have a ‘book of order’. It would take a tank-load of dry martinis to get them out of order!” Perhaps the offended individual was a Presbyterian… When I first heard the sermon I did think that some of his jokes about drinking were a bit crass. But just yesterday I watched the entire sermon again on video and came to the conclusion that he actually handled this painful subject very well. He made the effort to point out that alcohol abuse is harmful and dangerous, and that it generally is the result of desperation. And he drew a powerful spiritual parallel. Being in the church, proclaiming the word of God and following Jesus Christ are things that we are not able to do on our own. We need help! That help is the Holy Spirit! And amazingly, when filled with the Holy Spirit we some times act in ways that would prompt the uninformed observer to conclude that we may be drunk!

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Thank you for the expanded explanation. Your description sounds like the Willimon I know.

I’ll have to watch the sermon some time.

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