Celebration of Biblical Preaching:
Preaching as Divine and Human Drama
Oct. 6-8, 2014


A People for God's Name: Believing and Belonging in Luke-Acts 

Eric Barreto, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary

Survey after survey demonstrates that ethnic diversity is only increasing in recent days and yet many of our churches remain culturally homogeneous. What might a church that invites diversity look like? We will turn to the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles to wonder together how God's gift of diversity might take root in our lives together. Too often, our tendency has been to imagine that our faith “solves” the "problems" of diversity by making us all one, the same. In contrast, the author of Luke-Acts views our differences as a gift to be treasured not a difficulty to be overcome. 

preaching old testament prayers

Michael Chan, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary

Many critical moments in Israel’s story are preceded by prayers, groans, and petitions to God (the birth of Jacob/Israel, the Exodus, the rise of kingship in Israel, the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls under the leadership of Nehemiah, etc.). Israel's history is moved along by human cries to the God who promises to be both judge and savior of the world. But prayer also displays in a remarkably clear way how ambiguous the human-divine drama is: Why does God delay in answer? Why is heaven silent? Why does God hide God’s face? This session will focus on preaching Hebrew prayers that are embedded within narratives, with special attention given to prayers that bridge major "chapters" in Israel's story. 


Making Space for Brokenness 

Meta Herrick Carlson, Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Good preaching invites our candor and vulnerability into the worship community so we can be our whole selves before God and each other. Together we'll consider ways preachers can cultivate space for human brokenness—both within the sermon and beyond Sunday mornings.


Preaching the Grand Drama of Scripture and the Narrative Lectionary 

Rolf Jacobson, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary

The two most common patterns of biblical preaching are: 1) the Revised Common Lectionary; and 2) sermon series on scriptural themes or books. These two patterns have served the church well in some ways.  But one major, unintended consequence of these two ways of preaching is that even the most faithful worshipers often lack any sense of the grand drama of Scripture and how they are called to live their lives in that "grand, God narrative."  Using the Narrative Lectionary as a point of departure, this workshop will explore different themes of the Bible's grand narrative and how preaching can engage God's people with God's story.

The Divine Drama and Suffering: What Words Can We Use? 

Dirk Lange, Associate Professor of Worship, Luther Seminary

In this workshop, we will grapple with the difficulty that suffering presents the preacher. If and how can we take up the question of suffering in preaching without trivializing it or explaining it away? The role of lament offers one perspective. Can lament also be proclamation?

The Theatre of John's Gospel: God as Actor in the Drama of the World 

Karoline Lewis, The Alvin N. Rogness Chair of Homiletics

How frequently we overlook the drama of Scripture: the characters, settings, plots, and details meant to draw us into its world for the sake of our sense and understanding of discipleship. There are no bystanders or observers when it comes to reading and hearing Scripture, yet our preaching tends to suggest that passive hearing is an adequate role when God acts in our lives. This workshop will use the Gospel of John as an example of how the Bible invites radical engagement with its stories. We will explore how our preaching can imagine and elicit the same kind of involvement and recreate dramatic experiences of the divine presence so as to make sense of our own human condition.

Preaching as Holy Listening and Sensemaking

Blair Pogue, Rector, St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, St. Paul, Minn.

Working with the assumption that the preacher is the congregation's chief storyteller, pastor Blair Pogue will explore ways preachers can connect the stories of church members, those on the margins of their faith community, and neighbors' stories with God’s story. How can preachers cultivate spaces of congregational dialogue and discernment with the Bible at the center where peoples' ordinary lives are brought into conversation with the text? How can sermons rooted in this participatory engagement equip people for and encourage them in the ministries to which they are called in the world? How can the sermon help members of a faith community interpret what God might be up to in their lives and in the lives of their neighbors? This workshop will involve the sharing of concrete practices and stories from a congregation committed to this engagement, and provide an opportunity for participants to share their own learnings.

Creating Visuals that Enhance Preaching

Sitraka Rakotoarivelo, Youth Director, St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, West St. Paul, Minn.

We are visual people, yet many preachers focus exclusively on words to communicate the gospel. Discover how visuals (PowerPoint, video and other visual art) can capture attention and enhance your chances of being understood from the pulpit. This workshop will include tips for image selection, methods for projecting images, guidelines for using video and a discussion on how to find a visual style that matches your preaching style.

Moving Beyond Millennial Anxiety: Taking a Theological Turn in Ministry to Young People with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Andy Root, Carrie Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Children, Youth and Family Ministry; Director, Center for Children, Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary

It appears that everyone is nervous about losing young people in our congregations.  Yet, this presentation will call us to take a deep breath and relax.  It will argue that if the church is to minister to the young, it needs to take a theological turn.   What exactly does it mean to make a theological turn in ministry to young people?  We will discuss turning away from a technological perspective, which sees ministry as providing solutions or as a means to a goal. But a theological turn doesn't necessarily mean turning to "theology;" it means moving to the "theological."  It seeks for the act of God in the lives and concrete experience of young people.  We will explore why and how this turn matters immensely, and how it ministers to young people in our congregations. 

Finding God in the Drama of Everyday Life

Graydon Royce, Theater Critic and Fine Arts Reporter, Star Tribune

The stories of our own experience provide a deep well of material through which we see God's message. These narratives become portals through which the scripture comes alive. Humans are wired to respond to drama and there is so much drama in God's message and in our daily lives. We need to connect them.

How the Acts of the Apostles Can Help Us Discover God within the Drama of Our Lives

Matthew Skinner, Associate Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary

The New Testament book of Acts tells a lively story of travel, growth, setbacks, discoveries, miracles, conflict, and responses to the Spirit's initiative. It's a theological narrative, a book that makes bold and sometimes difficult claims about God, the gospel, and humanity. Reading about God's involvement in the life of the early church can reorient our theological perspectives, leading us to consider how God continues to be glimpsed through our and our congregations' multifaceted witness to Jesus Christ. In this workshop, we will consider big themes and specific passages from Acts that lead us to view our past, present, and future with eyes attuned to God and God's intentions. Join us if you are considering preaching or teaching from Acts, or if you simply want to rekindle ways of thinking about how biblical narratives lead us to expect God to play active and persistent roles in our human dramas.