I had not considered coming this year for some time. Last year was in Nashville - a quick jaunt up I-40. But Minneapolis? Seemed like it might be too much.
But my brother in ministry and Glad River bandmate, Rob, was determined to come this year, and it placed in my thoughts real prospect that I might find a way to go.
And I'm here.
Minneapolis in late May and Memphis in May are not the same thing.
So, here I am at the Festival of Homiletics, which I've determined is "Woodstock for Preachers (absent the free drugs and love - I hope! Uggh - kill me now)." All you have to do is watch this bunch of clergy, some 2,100 of us, and it is the stuff of sociological, if not anthropological study. And it's clear that how many of these you've attended creates a caste system of how "in" or connected folks think they are.
We can be a pitiable lot.
You don't have to ask a long time attendee how many times they've been - they'll tell you first.
And then there are others - a group in which I place myself, who are starving for something to guide, to challenge, to inspire and to feed them. Having known times when the spiritual well was flowing freely, at these events we drill for new wellsprings to refresh parched spirits longing for the day to know it again.
Coupled with that deep desire is knowing all too well that it is we, who are clergy - we who preach, that so many deep and devoted people are looking for the same thing on Sundays that I'm looking for this week.
You can't be a container of grace to be outpoured if there's a hole in the bottom of the pitcher.
Some thoughts after the opening night.
We experienced a concert from the National Lutheran Choir. They were absolutely and completely stunning. As "tight" vocally as I've ever heard with dynamic control that is simply unmatched. It was a wonder to behold.
Tom Long lectured on preaching paths for the Gospel of Mark - which is the primary Gospel for the next Christian year.
Anna Carter Florence preached on "Mary and Martha." A rich sermon, to be sure, and one that struck me deeply. Besides that of it that I'll "borrow," I was convicted at the notion of "distraction," a feature of that reading -
The very mention of distraction - distraction from the One who calls me - hit me tonight. Life is so much distraction, and mine has been abundant. I'm not talking about life itself - the stuff of life comes and goes. Business, schedules, three places to be at once, and the expectations that come from each.
41But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing.* Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
As tiring as that can be, I can deal with that. No, I felt the realization that my distractions were of the inner life - and if nothing else happens this week than that I was confronted with that truth and awakened to it, then the effort of this week is well spent.
Maybe that is "the one thing" I'm needing right now.