My preaching class (“New Treasures from the Old Testament”) at ABSW last semester was taught by an amazing older man, honorably retired and serving as Pastor Emeritus (Pastor E for short), J.Alfred Smith Sr. His classroom manner was gentle and encouraging most of the time, but nearly every week we had a little fire put into us. We’d all stand up, make a fist for emphasis, and repeat after him:
I am a preacher!
I am a preacher!
I didn’t come to seminary to become a preacher!
God made me a preacher!
I came to seminary to become a better preacher!
This refrain runs in my head often, but it took on greater meaning during the HEART trip. I was kind of hoping to acquire a new identity, maybe an “I am a community organizer!” or an “I am a food justice advocate!” or even an “I am a farmer!” They are not mutually exclusive, of course, but the trip gently showed me that at the heart of it, though I love me some compost, I am a preacher.
We started of course (three weeks ago, though it feels like months) with Ellen Davis’ amazing Old Testament exegesis, which woke me up inside and inspired a sermon I gave in three different incarnations through the course of the trip, all well-received. And my experience at the USSF ended happily with an encounter with Ched Myers! He had collaborated on the creation of Tevyn East’s Leaps and Bounds (http://www.affordinghopeproject.com ) and was present for its performance. I owe that show a blog entry of its own, but suffice it to say it took the impending crises of population explosion and resource depletion and wrote them in Biblical terms, from creation onward to hope and resurrection. After that I participated in a Bible study Ched led on Sabbath Economy, and thrilled at his exegesis of Mark 9:43-48 in terms of our societal addictions to the things that are killing us, and his reading of the implicit “body” in that passage as the corporate and not the individual body. This is what I want to study! And preach on! And live! There is no doubt that Friday’s performance and Bible study meant more to me than any other of the other legitimately amazing workshops I had attended at the forum. So I’ve come to realize where my joy lies: speaking sacred, ancient text to troubled postmodern ears. And I can preach about community organizing, food justice, and farming – without struggling for expertise, status, and identity in each of those areas. I can be amateur in those, in the root sense of amateur, which is one who does it for love (latin amare).
Of course the next thing that comes to mind is... if I’m not called to be a farmer, maybe I can just marry a farmer and get some recreational raised veggie beds, restoring-of-creation, and strawberry feasts thrown in the bargain. Keep your eyes peeled on my behalf... =)