May 24, 2018
By noon on Tuesday we had listened to two sermons and one lecture on preaching. Yes, I can hear you now. What? Who in the world would want to spend three hours in worship and listen to sermon after sermon after sermon? The answer is, of course, preachers.
For 26 years the Festival of Homiletics has brought together over 1,500 preachers from across our country and Canada to be inspired by some of our nation’s finest preachers and teachers. In addition to the fellowship, there are opportunities to experience a variety of preaching styles as well as creative expressions in worship.
I have attended the Festival in the past and have always come away renewed and energized.
This week, the Festival is being held in Washington, DC, and I have the privilege of sharing the experience with Domenik Ackermann, Richard Leslie, Jo Ann Fritz, and John and Rebecca Shillingburg. We have been engaged with the theme of “Preaching and Politics.”
Many of the speakers have reflected on the challenge of preaching these days and the ambivalence some of us have in the church to be engaged in the what some define as politics. Yet, we were also reminded that the term politics is derived from the Greek word "Polis", which means the city state. According to Greek philosophers, politics was a subject which dealt with all the activities and affairs of the city state.
For the church to be engaged in politics, the church is engaged in the healing of our communities, nation, and the world. We have been reminded that this is not about being a Republican or a Democrat. We are called, as followers of Christ, to challenge injustice and defend those whose voices have been silenced. Christianity is not a “private” religion and we are not called to just “take care of our own.” Jesus made it clear, over and over again, that to be his disciples we are called to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, give clothing to those who need it, and visit the sick and those in prison.
These are perilous and challenging days in our country. The speakers this week have asked:
- Where is the voice of the church these days?
- Can the church really be “neutral” when we are addressing issues such as domestic violence?
- Can the church really be “neutral” when people must work three minimum wage jobs to support their family?
- Can the church really be “neutral” when our country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world and those incarcerated are mostly brown and black?
Obviously, I have been inspired and have much to consider not only for preaching but also for our life as a congregation. How do we engage in the “polis”? How do we stay focused on the issues of justice in our community and nation and not get caught up with the partisan rhetoric that separates us? How do we keep our lives focused on the life and teachings of Jesus?
Food for Thought:
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” (Alexander Graham Bell)
Rev. Dr. Barbara Kershner Daniel, Senior Pastor
Evangelical Reformed Church, United Church of Christ
15 West Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701