I still live a few miles from Luther Seminary, but last week was an exciting homecoming. The Mid-Winter Convocation welcomed Walter Brueggemann, Terry Fretheim and a sold out crowd for three days of lectures and workshops. Many of my classmates were back in town from first call and we welcomed the opportunity to share stories and catch up.
Some serve in small towns and live in a parsonage near the church. Others are far from home and learning about new cultures and what it means to be a solo pastor. Seminary doesn't teach us much about business, balancing the books, or what to do when a member of your congregation calls you with her kitchen plumbing problems. People shared their embarrassments and victories.
It was good to hear these stories.
The keynote speakers captivated the crowd by bringing to life stories about Noah and the flood, Exodus and Pharaoh, Daniel and his stubborn identity. I could hear the revelation in the large sanctuary as we heard each of these stories with new ears and new authority for today's struggles.
Whether I know it or not, I wander into scripture with open wounds. Each time I hear these stories, they react with the aches and pains I face in daily life - friends unemployed, a national recession, general apathy, and the pressure that rides on hope and tomorrow. I carried these things into Mid-Winter Convocation and felt vulnerable as the presenters showed me the surprisingly relevant ways God's ancient stories live today. It felt good - like the truth you've always known but is suddenly and wonderfully tangible.
The flood has a word to say about God's covenant with us and the deeply emotional way God chooses to be with us in disaster and suffering. The exodus has a word to say to workaholics and our modern definitions for success, achievement and freedom. Daniel has a word to say about our baptismal identity that cannot be bullied away or ignored.
It was good to hear these stories, too.
Now, in the days since convocation, the stories have blurred and blended. First call, new adventures, laughter and hugs were balm for open wounds, just as the Living Word provided relief from my cultural leprosy. The burdens I'd been carrying got tangled up with the good news and I was sent home with renewed energy and hope.