I spent a long weekend (Thurs-Sat) in one of my four "hometowns," Waco, TX. And surprise surprise, it was a great visit.
I drove up in the rain, then the hail and finally the snow to attend George W. Truett Seminary's Winter Pastor's School. And for the first time in my life, I attended every part of the conference. From the Truett Alumni Dinner on Thursday to the final session on Saturday morning, I participated 100% of the conference. Wasn't even tardy once - not even to the morning activities!
This is unusual because usually at conferences the point is two-fold: to receive inspiration through the teaching or seminars or whatever but also to relax - take time for yourself, chill in a hotel, check out a local museum, take a break from church. In this way the conferences are restorative. Education and vacation all in one.
But this conference was in Waco. It's not an exciting destination. There's no aquarium to see, no national gallery to visit, no real sight-seeing opportunities. And even if there were... been there, done that. On top of that, while I had old friends to catch up with, I had been to Truett two weeks before to preach and had already caught up with many of them.
Not to mention that the real reason I had come to this conference was because my favorite Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann was speaking on Prophetic Preaching. Squeal!
And that's where my second comes in. Two years ago in 08, I was invited to participate in a Round Table Discussion with Walt in Atlanta. That gathering was so small that I SAT NEXT to this amazing scholar. So this was my second time to hear him and I was excited. So excited in fact that I printed off a picture of him and me from the conference two years ago and re-introduced myself to Dr. Brueggemann and asked him to sign the picture.
He wrote, "We look good together!" and then handed it to me and laughed.
I almost died.
It was an amazing conference. He spoke about the dominant narrative we live in, namely one of therapeutic, militant, technological, consumerism. He charged us as pastors to preach God's alternative narrative of hope and possibility. He charged us to help our congregations penetrate the denial, name the fear and muster the courage and freedom of the reality over which God governs. He charged us to relinquish and receive; to deconstruct the given world and help people relinquish it (as Walt's therapist says, "Do you wanna keep livin' that way or let it go?"; to construct another world and help people receive what is given. Why? Because God brings to nothing the things that are, and calls into existence things that do not exist. God is a god of the impossible. And what exactly must we relinquish in our modern context? We must relinquish the western, white, male, straight world of domination and invite into the story the poor, women, non-whites, gays and lesbians. But just like ancient Israel, we struggle to receive the new world God is giving us of new people and new economics. And in light of our upcoming Christian liturgical season, we must take the Friday stuff and the Sunday stuff and be a map for what's happening in the world.
Of course he took two days to exegete texts and explain his thesis, but there's a little to whet your appetite.
And if being reminded of our faith and called to God's new narrative of hope and possibility, of building up and planting weren't enough, I got to see the Eades.
The Eades are the family I lived with during most of my years in Waco. Wes (the dad) once called me his boomerang child (the one who just kept coming back). The youngest daughter, Olivia, was six when I moved into the house apartment... and is now 14. Yikes. And she's 5'7. I can't believe I used to hold her on my lap. And it was just like old times. All five of them were living there (before the oldest transfers to Tx State and the middle son moves to Missouri to start college) perhaps for the last time in a long time, or ever. We sat around in the living room just like they always have (it was too cold to sit on the porch) and drank wine and watched Glee and talked therapy and discussed what it means to be a neighbor. And of course we laughed at each other. It was so fun.
Tomorrow I'm back to work for an almost 12 hour day straight thru. College Bible study is Monday and I begin directing You Can't Take It With You on Tuesday. Life will be crazy from here on out. So it was nice to have a preemptive replenishing before I inevitably will be depleted.
And first and a second. And now on to my third...