William Willimon: Midwinter begins
The hotel ball room was full to capacity. There was a buzz in the air as old friends reunited, as stories were told and family updates were given. Matt Lundgren led a worship band in overly slow songs, some familiar hymns redone and other new songs introduced and riffed to display excellent musicianship, but not of the worship calibre of the Youth Workers' Connection (have I mentioned that the worship at the Youth Workers' Connection is some of the best I've experienced in Covenant gatherings?). Two pastors told a quick story about church revitalization, the point of which eluded me, though it was a witness to God making old churches fresh again.
The kicker was Bishop William Willimon, a Southern Methodist, who had us in the palm of his hand as he told the story of Jesus calming the waters in the storm (among other stories). The point and gist that he kept coming back to was that the God of the Bible is not neat and manageable, containable and predictable, calming and soothing, and reduced for our convenient consumption in 20 minute bites on Sunday mornings. He told the story from John 3 about Nicodemus being told by Jesus that he had to be born all over again, fromthe top down, the inside out, radically.
This was not a sermon about excellence and new ways to keep disgruntled members happy and slim budgets full. It was not the introduction of a new program or personality. It was not a practical sermon about take-home advice, distilled in three preaching/teaching points. It was about the amazing God we serve, whose ways are not our ways, but is the way the truth and the life.