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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Black Lab and the Festival of Homiletics

Yesterday, after worship, I drove 120 miles round trip to deliver a dog to his owner. He is a black lab named Rex, and he looks kind of like this.  I don't know if he'd ever ridden in a Camaro before, but he did not seem impressed.

You might ask why I did this? Because I am a parish pastor. These are the kind of "things" pastors do on their jobs. You might think pastors preach or teach; maybe you think they run a small non-profit; maybe you believe pastors don't do much at all (certainly if you use me as the paradigm that one is in play.) But most parish pastors try to help out their parishioners in their lives, doing whatever they can to help build the trustworthy world God invites us to share. Yesterday, that meant, at least for this parish pastor, a trip to Lincoln and a car ride with a pretty dog.

Because the dog's owner had an unfortunate experience (she was carjacked, with her and her friend in the car), Rex found himself 60 miles from home sharing a house with four smaller dogs, that apparently did not let him sleep much. With all the drama around that situation of the owner, no one had the time or a vehicle to rescue Rex. This is why God makes pastors. All we have is time, and we usually have a vehicle (although again, don't judge most pastors by my vehicle. Most of my colleagues are way more sensible than me. I love showing you pictures of my car.)
  You're welcome.

 So there I was off to Lincoln to retrieve a cherished pet for a traumatized owner. I don't know, did I help make the world a better place? I think so.

Last week, I was at the Festival of Homiletics (study of preaching) in Minneapolis, and there were a lot of pastors there too. They had taken the week to come listen to preaching and learn about preaching so they could be better preachers. From what I saw and heard, there was a lot of good preaching for them to learn from and study. But in order to come learn about preaching they had to take a week off from picking up dogs, going to meetings, sitting by sick people in the hospital, going to jails, having coffee with the farmers busily planting this time of year, or any of the 1000s of others things God has asked those pastors to do.

Most of those pastors sitting in the pews listening to the "famous" preachers (one, Barbara Brown Taylor was just named to Time Magazine's Top 100 most influential people) will never be remembered for their preaching. They might not be remembered for much at all. But if they are remembered it's because they were there when someone needed them to help build a trustworthy world. Most people, when they tell me stories about pastors they've known, remember the times he or she was around when no one else would or could be. The pastor was the first one into the intensive after the car accident...the pastor was the one who prayed when grandma was dying...the pastor was the one who helped our son find his purpose in life...the pastor was the one who told us God loved our child even though she is gay...People remember pastors because they are around, not because they preach.

As someone who teaches pastors how to preach better, you might think I'd have a higher regard for preaching. I do, but preaching only matters if it's in service to God building a trustworthy world, and to build a trustworthy world is to make friends and be around when they need help. So, I made a new friend yesterday. He's about 60 pounds, he's single, and he's the nicest of dogs, and his name is Rex. For him, the ride home to be with loved ones was the best preaching he'd ever heard. And he got there in style!!!
 (bonus picture)

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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