Wednesday, June 20, 2007

FOH: WIlliam Willimon

I will not try to go on and on with Festival of Homiletics notes. I want to do a couple more entries (like Brian McLaren), but I found so much of this helpful for me in my preaching, I thought there might be a gem or two that would be helpful for others.

“Transformation with the Trinity; Preaching that disturbs”

William Willimon for many years was the chaplain & professor at Duke Univ. More recently he was appointed the Methodist bishop for the state of Georgia.

He also lectured on Thursday at the beautiful Christ Church. I could not have been more disappointed. He spoke there on "How God Changes People Through Preaching." He basically said I don't know, but took an hour to do it. It was profoundly disappointing. I went into his Friday lecture with my expectations pretty low. Friday was as good as Thursday was bad.

Some misc. notes on his Friday lecture.

Whenever two denominations merge, ten years later you have a weaker denomination.

Day of Pentecost: “God showed up and all hell broke loose.” People yelled fire! And ran for the doors.

You ask God at the opening of worship to descend among us, and every now and then, God answers.

Prophetic speech comes with the descent of the Holy Spirit. Preaching can be transformational because God is. That's why we have the chairs bolted down in worship.

Our preaching is usually not transformational until God shows up.

It is within the nature of the Trinity to move, disrupt, dislodge, create friction between our ways and God’s ways. As leaders, we sometimes think it is our role to negotiate this space. “'I’m a pastor, I’m a reconciler of troubled waters.' (“Well great, try nursing or something. We’re working with a living God.”)

(From Thursday lecture) There is something about the Trinity that results in God not staying in a place very long (God moves on and we humans refuse to accept that and we create institutions)

  1. The primary image of God in the Bible is a journey
  2. Church fathers used the concept of “the procession” of God
  3. Thin descriptions of God are killing us
  4. Preaching is not about transformation—it is about letting Christ move among his people.

(Back to Friday lecture) I don’t know why God moves on from places. It is usually painful.

“It’s hard to worship a God when he gets destructive”

The difference between a living God and a dead God is that a dead God can no longer shock us. An idol is a projection of the worshippers wants, thoughts, and desires.

We are to be a projection of the Trinity’s wants, thoughts and desires.

A renewable resource for energy for ministry is the Trinity

Preaching is not an encounter with helpful principles, but is an encounter with a person who transforms.

Too much preaching today is in the Wisdom Literature mode. “like being on a long trip with your mother.” Good principles that help you live through the World. “this way is a better life than that life.” It is not transformational

"Basically the sermon becomes an announcement that, 'I have found four, three, five biblical principles that will help you at work or help you in your marriage.' I wish being a Christian were that easy." “Power-point preaching.” (3/4/5 Biblical principles to help you at work/in your marriage/etc) -- instead of focusing on a God who is powerful, personal and unpredictable. “I wish being a Christian were that easy . . .”

“We don’t have any happy marriages in the Bible!”

I come to the Bible with my life projects and look for help with what I’m doing. Scripture may not be happy with my life as presently constituted.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Preaching is the gutsy act of letting Christ roam among his people.”

Not an encounter with principles, but with a person. A person who calls your name, calls you out, intrudes.

Our preaching too often stabilizes Jesus.

Purpose Driven Life & its promise of spiritual fulfillment in Introduction:

  • If completing 40 days of spiritual homework will answer every question about life and faith, "don't bother with worshiping the Trinity,"
  • “That’s easier than the Trinity.” “I have discovered the way that will help you keep Jesus white.”
  • "Perilously close" to Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity.
  • questioned Borg's pledge of "a way of seeing Christianity that makes persuasive and compelling sense of life,"
  • Borg seems to have discovered how to "help you keep Jesus quiet."

"Preaching is hard because it is an encounter with the living Christ,"

We think preaching is about lessening the cognitive dissonance that exists between us and the gospel. That we’re to make the gospel receivable. That we can make people think “Huh, Jesus makes sense. I can use Jesus to get what I wanted before I confronted the gospel.” Jesus says to preachers, “would you get out of the way?”


Anonymous said...

and question on a couple of your notes...

"You ask God at the opening of worship to descend among us, and every now and then, God answers."

"Our preaching is usually not transformational until God shows up."

do statements like that imply, if not presuppose, that Jesus is not already in our midst?

Cal Habig said...

Good questions. I think that there is a difference between God's presence and God's perceivable activity. In the first quote he is speaking in the context of Pentecost and making the point that we ask God to be present in the call to worship, but we don't really expect him to DO anything. I think it is (as I said) God's perceivable activity.

In the second quote he is speaking in the context of preaching and recognizing that transformation does not come as a result of any words I say...but only because God chooses to begin to bring transformation in a persons heart. As much as I would like to think that my preaching of the Word has profound effect, I realize it doesn't unless God uses that Word to work on a persons heart.

As I said in thebeginning, it is not his presence..."where CAN I go from your presence, O Lord?" But it is his activity in bringing transformation and "perceivable activity" That is MY term...not Willimon's and the more I type it, the less I like it...but I'll let it stand. Thanks for chiming in. It means a lot to know what somebody is actually reading this stuff!!

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