Word of the Week

The Presence of Remembering

The past two days, I've been attending the Festival of Homiletics, an annual preaching conference for pastors of all Protestant denominations. I've been feasting on good preaching, being nurtured by good friends, and worshiping alongside thousands of clergy. It has been a treat to see old seminary classmates, hear professors from my divinity school and other very cool schools, and to be reminded of how important the art of preaching is in the life of a gathered community (and an added bonus to WPBC-- such an event is only bound to strengthening my preaching!)

Yet, what has moved me most today and yesterday has been the geographic place of this gathered community.

Many of the meetings I attended at the festival were held inside First Baptist Church of Nashville, TN.  This particular church holds significance for my family of origin as it is where my grandparents, dear saints of God, George and Doris spent their lives a lay leaders.  My grandfather was the best friend of his long-term pastor, taught classes and once directed the Sunday School. My grandmother was a faithful contributor in many ways, even when she found herself a widow, earlier than she would have liked. They were those committed church members that any pastor would die to have on their rolls.

Though I had been back to this church once before now, my previous visit to this sanctuary was to attend the funeral of my grandmother in 2003. And in 1997, the funeral of my grandfather too.

I couldn't help but feel the spirit of these dear ones as I looked upon the pews from the balcony view where they sat every Sunday of their life together here.  And, so I began to think of what they would have thought of so many preachers being in their church during this week, men and women alike, skin colors of all shades, young and older. I wondered what they would have thought about me, their granddaughter being among them here.

And, I knew they were smiling down.

Though my grandmother and I never talked much about theology of what it meant for women to preach, I always knew she supported everything I did.  I always knew she was a woman with an open mind. And, I always knew she saw something special in me that often I didn't see in myself. And, for these reasons, I believe there's a part of her soul that leaped for joy in those moments of my being "Pastor" in her former sacred space.

I could just hear my grandfather too, singing along in his deep baritone voice as the "Doxology"  closed one of our  worship services. And his voice dear as as sang great hymns of the church like, "Amazing Grace" and "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." I didn't want the hymns to end. 

The deep mystery is how to explain the presence of remembering, and how in these tender moments, the Spirit of God felt so close.

It's good to know afresh that the great cloud of witnesses, which in my opinion includes George and Doris, is cheering me and all those working toward kingdom pursuits. "Remember the goodness of the God who loves more than you could ever imagine," and "Keep running," they say. "For God is very good."

What a good thing to feel and know again this week. God is very good.