Among the many presenters at the Festival of Homiletics this week, Barbara Lundblad is one that I wanted to hear. She is one of the first women preacher to develop a national reputation as communicator of the gospel. She is also a Lutheran and has ruffled many feathers with some of her controversial statements.
She gave a workshop Tuesday called “Seeing the Word.” Barbara is a professor of Old Testament and she focused on the Advent scripture texts from Isaiah. She encouraged us to see the significance of using visual metaphors to help the congregation not only hear the word, but see the word as well. She asked us to engage the artists and designers in our congregations to create visual symbols that help the congregation fully enter the story of the texts.
Barbara then told a humorous story about a young intern pastor spending nearly the entire annual budget for worship in her congregation on a long bolt of clothe. He then ruined the church kitchen sink dyeing the fabric blue. For Sunday worship, he rolled the blue cloth from the altar down the center aisle, through the narthex and out the church door and into their neighborhood. He preached on Ezekiel 47 where the prophet describes a river of water flowing from the temple in Jerusalem into the Dead Sea. The river was a symbol of life for Ezekiel and for us. The intern’s blue cloth symbolized the congregation becoming a God’s river of life in their community.
I was reminded of last fall when our stewardship team encourage me to use some visual symbols as part of our “Fuel the Flame” stewardship theme. Members of the congregation created logs that captured some of the words of faith and we used them in worship. Later the logs became part of a congregational bonfire. The logs became symbols of how our faith can catch fire with God’s love and in turn we can share the fire with others.
I am thankful for all that I can learn from some of the outstanding preachers in our country.
Lord Jesus, you are the Word made flesh for us. Open our eyes to see your Word for us.