Honestly, I was not thrilled to learn about the theme for this year’s Festival. I would have much preferred preaching on the borders, prophetic voices, story-telling, dreams, or any of the other themes that have come up in the twenty-six years the Festival has existed. Politics…well it’s just too divisive. I’ve found it to be so difficult, especially in ministry, to find unity among it all.
And here I had all this planned out already. I had the hotel picked out, the flight path planned. So I asked myself, what does preaching and politics actually mean?
I’ve been gifted with many colleagues, mentors, authors, and preachers to help me sift through these last few years in ministry in our current political climate. A phrase that has always stuck with me in preaching and in ministry is that the Gospel is political, but not partisan. The main definition of “political” is “relating to the government or the public affairs of a country” (thanks dictionary.com). And the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus has a lot to do with the public affairs of not just a country, but of the entire world. It has to do with all of creation.
It doesn’t get more public than that. Jesus doesn’t call us to huddle together in groups of sameness, but rather to go out into the world sharing the Gospel and making disciples (Matthew 28:19). It’s kind of hard to do that without relating to the leaders in our country or the public affairs of our society.
Political vs. Partisan
It’s the partisan piece of politics that divides us. The ways we create borders around each other on party lines, or policy decisions, or the people we believe in. We can put our trust into individual leaders and forget about the trust we’re called to put in Jesus. Sometimes we forget about the call to our neighbors and instead focus on who we might call our neighbors.
And that’s the tricky part. How to share the truth that is Jesus, the Gospel of grace we have been given, in our divisive and often partisan world today? Could the Festival give me some tools? Some inspiration? How exactly do we live our faith publicly when even talking about faith can carry us into strange and uncomfortable political conversations? Could this be a space for me to explore some of these issues facing our world and our faith today?
Not being alone
Once the schedule was released, I realized that this would be that space I was looking for. Turns out, I’m not the only pastor in the country who is trying to navigate these difficult terrains of love, justice, and grace.
Topic for sermons and lectures led with titles like, “What does the Lord Require of us?”and “Preaching in the Age of Anxiety”. There was “Living Justly and Loving Powerfully in a Fractured America” and “Building Bridges from the Pulpit”. Followed by “A Ministry of the Spirit”, “Preaching and Race”, “Bridging the Gratitude Gap”, and more.
I wasn’t alone in my hope for unity in our church and our world.
This post is the third in a seven-part series on experiences at the Festival of Homiletics 2018. Stay tuned for upcoming parts to this series!