[Thoughts from the 2012 Festival of Homiletics]
I would tell you that I'm "young". Or at least not old. (Nevermind that some days, I feel tired enough to feel 110.) But today, I felt like a dinosaur.
The theme of this year's festival is "Transformational Preaching at the Crossroads" and a word we're hearing a lot about is "emergent." That word hadn't entered my vocabulary very much, as I would also tell you I'm a pretty traditional sort. Yet, I believe that there ought always to be new energy in whatever we are doing. After hearing this amazing speaker that was brilliant, raw, phenomenal...and highly tattooed, do this mind warping lecture, I was excited for the opportunity to hear her preach. And double bonus: the subject of her sermon was pentecost.
But before we could get to the sermon, there was a time of praise music. "Great! I like music! I'm hip enough to appreciate this!" are the things I told myself. Only I wasn't. While the words to the songs were beautiful, the music made me absolutely cringe. It sounded like pure noise to me. And while I think the singer (also one of the speakers, whom I didn't get to hear) might have had some great things to say to the church, I couldn't quite stomach the face he had to make to hit these really high notes. The music felt awkward to me-- and hard to join in with as a congregation. I guess I felt left out. At least for that part of the service, I didn't feel like I was worshipping at all.
But there was an epiphany there too. As a young pastor serving a predominately older congregation, perhaps an epiphany I needed to have. While I've never pushed "contemporary" anything on them, maybe I've pushed them in other ways that made them feel like they were on unknown ground. Maybe what they are opposed to isn't the change or the idea of doing things differently...maybe they just can't figure out how to join the new song. Maybe the things that felt like worship to them have turned into what seems like "noise."
I'm all for new energy, and for trying new things-- but never, ever, at the sake of excluding people from the song.
So my challenge is this-- how can there be new life that invites all people in? I don't mind feeling like a dinosaur, but I'm not really up for extinction either. So...?
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.