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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Monday, November 17, 2003

Systematics Journal Entry #10

(Yes, journal assignments are back, too!)

Our assigned reading load for the last two weeks, while we were off on Plunge, was pretty light. For this I am grateful, as we were kept pretty busy while we were gone. Thanks, Gregg!

Moreover, the reading-- several sermons out of Rutledge’s Help My Unbelief and Williams’ Ray of Darkness-- were both easy to follow and meaty food for thought. I enjoyed them, and found myself reading one chapter at a time, in order to allow time to think about and digest the words and thoughts expressed. I’ve become something of a preaching geek, it seems; and, while a good sermon loses something (in my opinion) in the translation from oral to written media, some of the flavor of proclaiming to the assembled still remains.

I have been a fan (for lack of a better word) of Fleming Rutledge’s preaching for several years. She came to our diocese for a clergy conference two years ago, and graced our parish by preaching at Sunday services that week. This was only two weeks after Sept. 11, and I can still remember not only her words, but her tone, and demeanor as she spoke. And that’s what I see, and hear, as I read the words in her book. She has a knack for hopeful realism-- being able to point out the implications of the scriptural teaching for our contemporary life; and conversely, for seeing in the world around us the work of God, or the need for it.

Williams’ text, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. I have grown accustomed to the effort it takes to slog through his sometimes very dense theological writing, enough that I’ve been maintaining that one of the reasons he was called to the archbishopric was to reduce his opportunity for confusing worshippers from a regular Sunday pulpit! However, his sermons were not nearly so impenetrable; they were, in fact, consistently readable, and written with an insight and occasional touch of humor that I appreciated. My favorite homily is the one entitled “I Do Not Know the Man,” based on Peter’s denial of Jesus in Matthew 26. Williams writes (or preaches) in Peter’s voice, expanding on the source of that denial-- the fear, the conflict, the anguish that moved Peter that day, and continues to move us today. Two weeks later, and I still feel that lesson.


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