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Jesus, preaching, and cheesy grits

May 17, 2012

ATLANTA — It is so great to be in Atlanta this week for the Festival of Homiletics — and what a feast it has been! This is something like the church nerd equivalent of the shrimp and cheese grits I had a couple of nights ago over at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. To die for!

Alas, my joyful week of Southern fried preaching is nearly over, but it’s a meal I won’t soon forget.

I have heard so many inspiring sermons and so many thoughtful lectures. I have thought about and discussed the emergent church movement, strategies for planning sermons, and ministering to older folks as well as the growing number of people who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”

As always, I heard a great number of things that moved me, and a few that did not. Both sides of that coin will give me plenty of fodder for discussing issues with you in this blog in the days to come.

Jesus is in the preaching. I believe that. I witnessed it. I personally felt the power of the Holy Spirit in the spoken word this week in a way I could only compare to the weeklong revival meetings of my youth. It has been a long time since I thought much about those days, but there it was: a clear line to the faith of my childhood, reminding me so much has changed, but God is still God. Jesus saved, Jesus saves and Jesus is saving

But, I have to say, there were other experiences this week where a sense of the sacred held great power. One place was Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. melded the Gospel and Gandhi to dismantle a system of hatred. It is not too much to say that I was filled with a sense of awe, that the divine was present here in a special way, and that we were in the midst of a great cloud of witnesses

Oh, and back to those cheesy grits at the tea room a couple nights ago. These were enjoyed with two old friends I had not seen for a while. The kind host explained the history of the eatery, and then we dove into the grits, greens, and black-eyed peas. We recalled old stories, made up new ones, picked up previous debates, and we laughed a lot.

So, yes, Jesus is in the preaching. But not only there. If we look only to the pulpit for him, we miss so much.

Jesus is also in the sacred memory.

And he is in the present ordinary moments, making them extraordinary as we fellowship and commune together. Thanks be to God for the Messenger of Reconciliation.

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