"I came to Atlanta to out you," Yvette Flunder preached. "There ain't no closet prophets."
Her sermon was focused on "What is the purpose of the Pentecost story?" She found three purposes. First, the coming of the Spirit was to get them together. Unity remains the biggest miracle in the story. To find unity we must overcome the sin of absolutism and the sin of authoritarianism.
Second, the coming of the Spirit was to get everybody's attention. Something public had to be added to the private spiritual experience.
Third, to give public witness they had to learn how to exegete the hearers. The message must be hearable by the people.
Flunder's goal was to empower us to speak the Gospel and not be confined to preaching the text. To let the Spirit speak through us, an idea she supported from her growing up in the African-American Pentecostal tradition. "Once the Gospel was the mouths and lives of living people, not a Book. The Gospel is in the book; it is not the Book. We made a mistake when we put the back cover on the Bible."
"But how do we control it? someone will ask. We don't."
Lauren Winner spoke next. Here's was a lecture with practical advice on how to preach prophetically. "We want our prophetic words to be healing words." I imagine many attendees were like me. After days of rousing prophetic calls, we needed some more craft talk, some more advice on how to do it well.
Winner taught "Our goal is to help people see the powers that hold them captive, imagine alternatives, and engage in practices that liberate." We should ask, "What holds my congregation in bondage?" Help people seize the freedom they already have because Jesus has already defeated what binds them. "Faithful prophetic preaching can be received by the congregation."
Her advice, which she admitted was in a Hegelian tension with Flunder's was to stay close to the text. That problems arise when a preacher preaches an issue and not a text.
While listening today I've been pondering one concrete thing and one broader issue.
The broader issue is how difficult it is becoming not to sound partisan anymore when preaching. If you believe that the Gospel means to welcome the stranger and immigrant, to care for the creation in the midst of climate change, to stand with African-Americans against the racism and violence of our nation, to oppose war, to believe that our gun violence is out of control and must be addressed NOW, to advocate for the poor, and to work for full equality of people who are LGBT . . . then at this point and time, even if it wasn't true 15 years ago, one political party advocates for those things and one (at least as a party, not as every individual member of the party) opposes every one of those things.
The concrete issue I've been pondering is what I must do when I return to Omaha to defend trans students from the abuses of our state government and the opposition of the archdiocese. How will I call the government and church out publicly? What language will I use? What actions will I take?