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Posts Tagged ‘new life’

In seminary, I always told myself that once I was in a church, I’d use some of my continuing ed time to go to the Festival of Homiletics. Unless you’re a preacher sort, you probably have no idea what “homiletics” is, much less why there would be a festival for it. Basically, homiletics is preaching, and now that I’ve been to the long-awaited event, I would definitely call it a festival.
I spent a week with some 1500 other preachers– we worshipped together, laughed at our unique challenges, and listened to folks who were still so on fire for spreading the word of God that you could call them “experts”. I heard Desmond Tutu (who might be one of my new favorite people) preach about reconcilation. I met my preaching hero, Barbara Brown Taylor. And I even wept as my favorite preaching teacher, Anna Carter Florence, was broken open by her text at hand.
What I realized very early into the week was that I had, in a lot of ways, become dried out. As I worshipped with so many others, who were just as thirsty for an encounter with the living God as I was, even the familiar words of the Doxology and treasured hymns took on new life. It doesn’t make sense. I’m a preacher. I spend most of my day with God. But there was something about having the opportunity to simply worship that renewed my spirit. The other thing I realized was that not only was I dried out, but that my sermons were getting that way. I had dutifully been preaching through the lectionary, each week struggling to bring a relevant word to my congregation from the text, forgetting, I think, in some ways, that what I do each Sunday morning really does matter. I’ve been entrusted with the living word. The least I can do is preach like it!

I guess you could say I’m on fire. Not that I had exactly forgotten what I was doing, but my flame definitely wasn’t burning as brightly as it once had, so to speak.

And now here I am, looking into the face of pentecost–which is great, because really, it’s my favorite of all church days. I love what the Holy Spirit does–bringing people together, giving folks gifts to use for the community, sending new life into hopeless places. I even love talking about the Holy Spirit, knowing that people call us Presbyterian sorts “the frozen chosen.”

I’ve definitely felt the movings of the Holy Spirit around Sherwood, but I wonder what it would take for us, both as a church and as individuals, to feel “on fire”? I think I’m going to make Pentecost a season, instead of a day. And I think I’m going to dare to ask people to pray diligently, even daily, for the Holy Spirit to reawaken us. Maybe I’ll even ask them to pray in this way for a whole month. Who knows what could happen if our whole church were praying that consistently?

I’m preaching on the Valley of the Dry Bones on Sunday. I wonder what it’s like to stare into our own boneyards, wondering where life has gone. I wonder what it’s like to stand in that place and wonder if there’s something more. And then to hear, while standing there, “You will live.”

Veni Sancte Spiritus– Come Holy Spirit!

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I ran 75 bulletins, which is just double what I run every Sunday. Surely that would be enough, surely we’d have a few left over. It wasn’t. There weren’t.

Our church was literally bursting at the seams yesterday. I’m not sure that we actually had any seats left (which I know for sure only because people were even sitting in the front pews…gasp!) Over the last few months, the Holy Spirit has been showing up in all sorts of amazing ways, and like the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel, the Spirit is moving the life-less to life-filled. And as a church, we’ve dreamed together of the day when our church might be overflowing.

Granted, yesterday was a special day, and we had lots of visitors from far away places. Not everyday can be like that…at least not yet. But something remarkable happened. All those faithful folks that show up Sunday after Sunday that have been praying for God to grow Sherwood felt what it might feel like when God moves in that direction. There was so much excitement and energy, and the hymns had this loud, robust, lively feel. People were laughing and joking and welcoming and praising and worshipping and feeling…and hoping.

God, May you cause Sherwood to burst open at the seams–may it be so filled with love and life that a mere building can’t contain it!

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