Soul Sister S and I were out walking our Maggies last night when I mentioned how tired I was after a day of sermon writing. She said she was surprised by that as she thought I'd come back from the FoH "all fired up and ready to preach." Well....yes, sort of and not really. Can one be fired up and flattened, fully ready and fully not, full of zeal and completely overwhelmed? Then that's where I am post-FoH.
I'm not sure what I expected from the Festival. What I got was more than I ever might have been expecting, certainly. More, but different, as well. While it was very cool to see the people I spend a lot of my Saturdays on Textweek with doing exegesis and getting inspired by, in the final analysis, it wasn't the lectures that were necessarily the best part. There were in fact lots of best parts....starting with being with a sheer hoard of preachers! To be in places (beautiful places to boot) with over 2000 people who do what you do (more or less), who are committed to the same overall goal in life of bringing the Good News of Jesus to the world....who are willing to take the time to come and hang out with other people for five days to learn to do it better....well the magic starts right there! And when those 2000 plus people pray and sing together in well-planned worship, well, there's nothing else for this geek to do but cry! So I did. Pretty much every day, every service, all week long. It just undid me to be there with all those people praising God together. That was for starters. Then there were the sermons! Oh, my. Soul food at it's finest. Every one a feast. And the music!!!! Folk, praise, Gospel, Jazz, Celtic, acoustic, organ traditional....the whole realm of creative expression. Such amazing gifts we were offered. And offered back. This gang could sing! My lovely congregation of fifteen or so Episcopal folks, good Midwesterners that we are, make a very polite little noise before the Lord. At FoH, we rocked the house and it was good!
Walking back to the hotel on Thursday a woman said to me, "You know, it's like Thanksgiving. You are so stuffed, you really can't eat another bite. But everything is so good, you just have to keep trying." She was right. It reminded me of a Middle Eastern meal I was invited to once. There were courses and courses and courses. One wonderful thing after the next, each more beautiful and delicious than the one before. At some point of course, I started to feel a little overwhelmed by it all, but afraid that something wonderful would be missed, I had to keep going and sampling and tasting. There came a point of feeling a little overfull of FoH, like the mind and spirit could not hold one more word, one more thought. But I just had to keep going back for more...what if I missed something! More than one person commented on the "stamina" of the group. Yes it was tiring on the one hand, but oh, so sustaining on the other.
So to my Soul Sister I said, "Not so much fired up as filled up." Contented, surfeited, replete.
My sermon writing process was different this week. It was me, the Gospel and the Holy Spirit on Saturday. Oh, I had done my reading, done my research. But I put it away, and did not cling to it for security as I usually do when writing. I decided to go up on the high board with Jesus and dive into the water and see where we ended up. The result of this was that the sermon I wrote was not the sermon I planned, or the one I originally thought I was going to preach a week or two ago. I abandoned the safety zone of my head, because if I heard one thing this week it was that testimony and witness and story have power that exegesis and didactic heady words do not. And when I preached this morning it felt in my very self like it came from a different part of me…as if I were embodying the Gospel more fully. And the voice of Spirit who comments in my head (more on that in a later post) says, “Well, what did you expect, my silly Beloved preacher girl?!?” Indeed!
There is so much more to say….and I will soon, but we have a graduate in the congregation and after a wee nap, there’s a party calling my name.