Festival of Homiletics Farewell
2008-05-23 by David von Schlichten

With great reluctance I had to leave the Festival at 11:30 AM on Thursday, between Butch Thompson's prayerful piano playing and what I am sure was a mellifluous and cleansing sermon from Barbara Brown Taylor. It broke my heart to have to leave.

Back home, listening to my wonderful teenaged children be teenagers, I feel full of a beautiful, transformative experience, the Festival, that I know they would not be able to appreciate through my mediocrity-shaded description. I hold no resentment toward them, just an almost romantic tenderness for a week of proclamation that transcended words, thanks be to the Word.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Luke Bouman; Minneapolis, Day 3; Anxiety
2008-05-21 by David von Schlichten

Insightful is guest blogger Luke Bouman's drawing from psychology as part of contemplating the Gospel in preparation for preaching. Scroll down to read his latest contribution.

This morning at the Festival of Homiletics Walter Brueggemann addressed this Sunday's lessons and this theme of not worrying. Brueggemann spoke of our culture stressing anxiety and that the creative generosity of God is an alternative to this culture of anxious, delusional self-sufficiency.

Brueggemann responded to Psalm 131, the psalm for this Sunday, by seeing the hymn as declaring a refusal to go down the road of "ambition cum anxiety." The psalmist resolves not to live on "Orange Alert" but to trust in Mother God, who is there for us even before we cry for her.

Matthew 6, also, leads us toward believing in the generosity of the creator and the exuberance of our theotelic future. This way of thinking is a "reframing" (Bruggemann's term) that rescues people from the paradigm of anxiety, self-sufficiency, and nihilism. Brueggemann's guidance was exciting and unchaining.

Eyes wide open, expectant, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Anxiety!
2008-05-21 by Luke Bouman

At this point in my preparation for next Sunday’s texts I find myself asking questions about the whole concept of “worry” that is the center of today’s text.  I wonder if it isn’t more helpful to think about this in terms of older translations that use the word “anxious” here.  We can read a lot about anxiety in the “self help” sections of bookstores these days, but I’m not particularly a big fan of “self help” sermons, or of “pop psychology” in my sermons for that matter. That said, I will dip a little into my research of “family systems” dynamics to comment about anxiety here.  For people who care to read more about this, Peter Steinke’s little book, “How Your Church Family Works” (Alban, 1993) has a nice section of helpful material. 

 

The first thing I always have to remember is that anxiety itself is not bad.  It is part of our natural response system to threat or danger.  It activates our body chemistry to enable us to fight or flee when threatened.  As such it is a part of God’s creation that should not simply become the victim of holy condemnation based on this passage.  According to Steinke, the difficulty begins when our natural response system begins to fire when there is no threat around us.  When anxiety fires off inside us without threat, it poses a long term threat to health (part of the response of our bodies shuts down aspects of our immune system).  When this happens on a regular basis everything becomes a crisis.  Relationships are also compromised. 

 

Another consequence for the continually anxious person is that choices are narrowed.  Anxiety reduces many choices to “either/or” options and increases the tendency for people to divide into opposing camps, making conflict more likely.  Creativity is minimized without the ability to see more options, and finally, growth, personal and communal is stunted.  I could go on, but I hope this gives people a taste of how anxiety and anxious presences within our lives will function.

 

The consequence of this for preaching on our lessons for today is that there are some kinds of anxiety that, when they work as they should, actually spur us to action.  But chronic anxiety will not only waste our time and energy, but actually contribute to immature behavior.  I have come to think of this kind of wasteful anxiety when I read texts like this week’s.  When societies become regressed or “stuck” in a way of thinking that leads to conflict, wars, walls, famine, etc., I think that one of the things we must come to grips with is our failure to trust and our decent into chronic anxiety as a whole society.  We must also, I think, see this chronic anxiety as more than a problem for us to solve.  It is a bondage, or at least a part of the bondage that keeps humanity at enmity with one another and with God.

 

Of course, I will likely mention little of this in my sermon.  What I will want to ask as I prepare are some tough questions.  Among them might be:  How have I experienced chronic anxiety in my own life, in my congregation, in my family, in society?  How has this impacted my ability to preach creatively, to minister effectively, to shepherd my flock?  How does God’s grace, both in providence and as redeemer liberate me from the “bondage” of my anxiety?   How is this liberation more than just coming to “understanding” but an actual release from bondage and worry?  What especially does God’s presence, and the way that God is creatively present, have to do with my liberation from this bondage?  How does this text from Matthew 6 reveal God as just this kind of liberating presence?  How does this liberation happen not only for me as a person but also for community and society?  What promises does God offer to keep me from further anxiety when this liberation doesn’t happen in my time frame or my expected pattern?

 

Finally, as I start to move from the thought process to the writing process, what experiences, what stories, what moves might be necessary for this sermon to become an engaging and liberating experience of the provident and redeeming God?  How do I get myself out of the way of this God engaging the people in an eventful way while I am preaching? (As if I needed one more thing to be anxious about!)





Minneapolis, Day 2
2008-05-20 by David von Schlichten

This morning, Tuesday, Anna Carter Florence stressed that preachers must empathize with the text, let the text strip them, kill them, and resurrect them. Then, the preacher is to proclaim that experience to the congregation.

Luke Bouman's blog entry below, with its questions and its exploring of how the Matthew passage connects with daily suffering, can push us closer to following Dr. Florence's wisdom.

Although I am not preaching this Sunday, I will probably write a sermon anyway. I am allowing the idea in Matthew 6 of not worrying to turn me over and over. "Do not worry." Yeah, right. That's certainly easier said than done. Luke Bouman's reflections are indeed helpful regarding this exhortation not to worry.

Straining toward empathy, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Luke Bouman; Minneapolis
2008-05-19 by David von Schlichten

Luke Bouman, our guest blogger this week, has already provided us with a nourishing and evocative blog entry that you will want to chew and ponder. Please scroll down and enjoy. 

I just registered at the Festival of Homiletics here in Minneapolis, where it is chilly and sporadically pluvial. My shy self wandered mute yet smiling among the hundreds of people at registration.

I am excited about tonight's offerings, which will include a concert by the National Lutheran Choir, a sermon by Anna Carter Florence, and a lecture by Tom Long. I am feeling star-struck.

I am also feeling hungry, so I am off to hunt and gather, always

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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