Poets, Prophets and Preachers Sessions 2 and 3

What a great morning so far!

Rob's opening session this morning was entitled: "The Story We're Telling," and his focus was purely theological: what do we believe about God, and God's Story as found in the pages of Scripture and how does what we believe influence how we preach and teach?

Rob began by reminding us that where and how we start the story, and where and how we end the story shape and determine what story we're telling. Are we preachers who begin in Genesis 1 and 2 or are we preachers who begin in Genesis 3? How we answer this question is crucial.

Genesis 1:11 tells us that God creates an earth that "produces." The Hebrew word here is dasha which connotes a "progressive generativity." The story we tell must be a story that reminds people that "tomorrow will be different from today." In vv 26 and 28 of Genesis 1 we are reminded that the role of the human was to be a steward of this good earth; we were created to be co-creators and participants in creation.

Rob argues that whatever it is that we love about life can be discovered in Genesis 1-2.

Likewise, where we end the story is essential in determining what kind of story we're telling. In Rev. 21, the end is a re-creation of the beginning: a new beginning.

So, wedged between Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22 we have the story of sin and redemption; an important story, but not the whole story. Rob said that if we were to take sin out of the Bible we'd be left with a pamphlet. Sin is a big deal. But it's not the whole story. In fact, it has to remain secondary to the story that begins in Genesis 1 and 2 and ends in Revelation 21 and 22.

The story, then, is not so much about our sin problem and how we can one day escape this world of sin and live forever with God, it's primarily a story of a God who is continually renewing, restoring and reconciling all things!

If we begin our story in Genesis 3, the point of our preaching becomes about removal of sin; if we begin in Genesis 1, the point of our preaching is about the restoration of shalom.

If we begin in Genesis 3, the point becomes "what you aren't."
If we begin in Genesis 1, the point becomes "what you are."

If we begin in Genesis 3, the goal becomes disembodied evacuation
If we begin in Genesis 1, the goal becomes participatory physicality.

Rob pointed out that in John's Gospel there is a sequence of 7 miracles culminating in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The number 7 would have been code word to 1st Century Jews for creation. The 8th miracle - His Resurrection - is Jesus' way of installing new creation in the midst of this one; which is also a reaffirmation of God's goodness in creation.

Some excellent quotes:

"A sermon is an insistence that through the resurrection of Jesus, a whole new world is bursting forth right in the midst of this one, and everyone everywhere can participate in it."

"Preachers are tour guides." We don't give answers so much as we give people eyes to see.

"A sermon brings hope, not rooted in escape but encouragement; not in evacuation, but in engagement; not in leaving, but staying and overcoming."

A sermon is never surprised when grace, beauty, meaning, hope, love etc. show up in all sorts of unexpected people and places, because it always has been, is now, and always will be God's world (my paraphrase). Because of this, Rob says "the whole world is your toolbox." I really resonate with that. God can redeem and use anything for his glory.

A great session giving me much to chew on.

You're going to have to get the DVD in order to truly appreciate session 3. Rob "interviewed" Peter Rollins, and I put interviewed in "" because he really just sat there and listened to Peter like the rest of us. Rollins is brilliant. Really brilliant. And like most brilliant people, he loses track of what he is saying sometimes because something else pops into his head and he goes with it. He had a tremendous amount of amazing things to say about preaching through transformative art that can only be comprehended from listening to the talk several times. Here are just a couple of thoughts that I jotted down, these are not exact quotes as I was not able to write nearly as fast as he spoke:

On sacred space: he said that sacred space should be a place where all who enter empty themselves of all that they are (kinosis). Our churches should be places where Jew and Greek, slave and free, rich and poor can be together as one if even for a short period of time.

Perspective: GODISNOWHERE. What does that say? God is nowhere? or God is now here?

Preaching: Preaching should be performative not descriptive. Our job is to draw people into a transformative place where they can figure things out for themselves.

We spend so much time trying to find thirsty people and offer them water, when what we really need to do is find people and offer them salt so that they recognize that they are thirsty.

People will discover that they need God when they get to the place where they are most inclined to believe that they don't need him. He talked a lot about allowing people to question and to embrace their own doubts, cynicism and and even a/theism (he talks much more in depth about this issue in How (not) to Speak of God. I highly recommend this book if you want to hear more about his thoughts on this issue).

Image: we spend a good deal of time trying to get people to look more like God. God became human, so in order for us to help people look more like God we really ought to be trying to help them look more like humans.

"The only church that illuminates is a church that's on fire."

"Christianity promises substantive transformation, and if we're lucky sometimes that takes place in the church."

Shane Hipps is speaking this afternoon and then Rob will wrap up the day with a talk later this evening.


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