Start at part 1 of this series on experiences from the Festival of Homiletics 2018 here!
When the second to last day of the Festival began with just the sermon of comfort I needed from Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Rev. Mariann Budde. Followed by a second worship with an incredibly moving sermon by Anthony Bailey around silence and song. And the day continued to inspire with a great lecture on the importance of our differences and the many seats at Christ’s table by Dr. Eric Barreto, and finished out with two eye-opening lectures from author Diana Butler-Bass on gratitude.
And a full day already by 4pm when we moved into our “free evening” of the Festival. Since it was a free night, the choices were ours. And we were free to go out for dinner, to check out some tourist spots, to meet up with colleagues, or to attend the Reclaiming Jesus prayer service and candlelight vigil.
So this service was planned months ago so that we as faith leaders might call upon our faith in Jesus to lead us to love our neighbor according to the brief announcement. And the service would be led by leaders from a dozen different denominations, all the leaders who signed that first statement faith during Lent. But it wasn’t until I saw a news article leading up to the event that I found out the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church the Right Rev. Michael B. Curry (who you might remember from the royal wedding) was included as a leader in this “Jesus movement”.
Called Together in Christ’s Light
Because that evening’s prayer service was not a conference event, Greg and Hadley were able to attend with me. Pastors and faith leaders filled the sanctuary of National City Christian Church in DC to capacity. 1500 pastors and faith leaders, many of whom wearing collars and stoles. Then knowing that there was another 500 gathered at the Lutheran church across the street, that the steps to the church were filled, my heart filled too.
And I was surprised to be so comforted being surrounded by so many people of faith, leaders of faith. And I felt blessed hearing the words of our elders. So together, bishops, pastors, and denominations leaders called for a renewed focus on Jesus. And we could feel the Spirit’s movement through that space.
Together hope filled us. Filled with the hope hope of a faithful God who brings love and mercy and grace to all people. Because God’s love is for all, regardless of their gender identity, their race, their nationality, their sexual orientation, their economic class, and even their political affiliation. So together we were reminded that Christ’s light shines through all of the darkness, and through all of us. And to be in that kind of presence, in that kind of light of hope and love, well it really was something else.
Prayers of Silence
I was thankful the elders made it clear throughout their reflections that they did not believe this was about parties or politicians, but about Jesus. And this “Jesus movement” needed to get moving too. The first 1,000 of us received battery operated candles, and we moved to the streets of downtown D.C. I was startled by the silence.
All week we had heard the constant horns honking, the noises of vehicles, of conversations, of a bustling city. But that evening, the silence was incredible. (Almost silence.) Hadley squealed with glee at being the only sound to be heard by the two hundred people nearby. I felt tears come to my eyes as the words from Anthony Bailey that morning came back to me.
“God is in the silence” (1 Kings 19:11-13).
As we walked the half mile together, some 2,000 pastors and faith leaders, we silently prayed together. Each praying to God for miracles, praying for God’s saving grace in our world. While I prayed for our country, for unity, for love, for justice, for hope, for Christ’s light to shine through the darkness in our world, to shine through us.
A Song of Hope
Finally our prayer walk concluded in front of the White House. Our little family held hands and prayed together silently for our world, for our leaders, for our country. Then as we opened our eyes, the silence was broken.
And we began to hear a song coming from the front of the crowd.
“This little light of mine…I’m going to let it shine.”
And Hadley had already begun shaking her little candle around to the music. And I found myself filled with a hope for our world. Filled with a hope for the church, a hope that I can only share in the words of one of our favorite songs:
“This little light of mine, I’m goin’a let it shine, this little light of mine, I’m goin’a let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m goin’a let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Ev’rywhere I go, I’m goina’a let it shine, ev’rywhere I go, I’m goin’a let it shine.
Ev’rywhere I go, I’m goin’a let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Jesus gave it to me, I’m goin’a let it shine, Jesus gave it to me, I’m goin’a let it shine.
Jesus gave it to me, I’m goin’a let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
This post is the sixth in a seven-part series on experiences at the Festival of Homiletics 2018. Stay tuned for upcoming parts to this series!