Will Willimon has clearly reached the point in life at which he doesn’t give a damn. Though I’ve heard him a handful of times before, this time he pulled no punches and cut to the quick.
For instance, he said that sometime in the middle of his career it became fashionable to view pastoral care as the primary aspect of ministry, to let it trump preaching. He said, “If you like holding hands, go into nursing. We are called to be preachers. To tell the truth.”
His lecture was on using preaching to combat racism. He said, “One of God’s weapons for defeating the color line is preaching.”
“If our congregations are nervous about this kind of talk, then they’ve just got to get over it.”
He shared how recently someone came up after he preached and said that he shouldn’t have dealt with some issue in his preaching. Willimon said to the person, “I guess Jesus did make a mistake in calling you to be a disciple, then. I thought maybe you were better than you are.” Damn. I can’t wait to be in my seventies if that’s the sort of thing you get to say to congregants.
“The point of the sermon is to increase stress.” He said he recently went to church and the call to worship was about how people are anxious and are coming to worship to find comfort, centering, and balance. He said he looked around and it was mostly white people who didn’t look anxious at all.
“I’m worried how white supremacism sneaks into our stuff.” “It’s time to talk about our social mores as an offense against God.” “I can’t think of a greater enemy than white people.”
But he believes in grace and that God can save even us biased and racist white people. “That we can be changed is a Christian gift.”