I have spent the last week in Minneapoliis at the Festival of Homiletics. How right that this event occurred during the season of Easter. How wonderful that a gathering of preachers landed in Minnesota to listen and learn not only about the craft of preaching the gospel, but also to hear the Good News being spoken to each one here.
As I write this, we are all gearing up for departure tomorrow.
Now the hard part begins. How can we resist the temptation to dive right back into the business (busy-ness) of ministry before we savor the gift given to each of us, for the good of each one of us, and then, ultimately for the greater good?
This week has been replete with stimulating lectures and sermons. We have all thought: "Ah! That's what my people need to hear!" Or, "That is the "stuff" that will make a great adult forum!"
In the course of this week some of us have been checking e-mails, posting on Facebook and tweeting our soundbytes. Staying connected is a good thing. However, for the pastor it can be an unfortunate distraction. Perhaps in the midst of the pulsing airwaves God has been saying, "Hey, Pastor "so and so", this has been for YOU.
As a spiritual director I ask the question: In the midst of all of this, what is God up to? Please, my friends.... before you rush home seeking to facilitate the transformation of others, pay attention to how God has worked this week to transform you!
And the one who was seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.'
I trust that each one at this festival has recognized Christ somewhere, or in someone. In the presence of the Spirit the heart begins to burn with something new. Of course it may not feel "pleasant". It may be stimulating truth that has been dormant or denied for years. But whatever has been given that is true may bear its best and most glorious fruit if you hold it and learn with it for awhile.
Consider the words of Bernard of Clairvaux:
We must not give to others what we have received for ourselves; nor must we keep for ourselves that which we have received to spend on others. You fall into the latter error, if you possess the gift of eloquence or wisdom, and yet-through fear or sloth or false humility-neglect to use the gift for others' benefit. And on the other hand, you dissipate and lose what is you own, if without right intention and from some wrong motive, you hasten to outpour yourself on others when your own soul is only half-filled.
If you are wise therefore you will show yourself a reservoir and not a canal. For a canal pours out as fast as it takes in; but a reservoir waits till it is full before it overflows, and so communicates its surplus . . . We have all too few such reservoirs in the Church at present, through we have canals in plenty . . .they (canals) desire to pour out when they themselves are not yet inpoured; they are readier to speak than to listen, eager to teach that which they do not know, and most anxious to exercise authority on others, although they have not learnt to rule themselves. . . . Let the reservoir of which we spoke just now take pattern from the spring; for the spring does not form a stream or spread into a lake until it is brimful . . . Be filled thyself then, but discreetly, mind, pour out thy fullness . . . Out of thy fullness help me if thou canst; and, if not, spare thyself.
An extract from: Great Devotional Classics: Selections from the Writings of Bernard of Clairvaux, ed. By Douglas Steere (The Upper Room, 1961). [p.24]