Live captioner standing Live
captioner standing by. by.>>Good evening.>>Good evening.
Welcome to Duke University chapel Welcome
to Duke University chapel.. I’m James. I’m
James. I’m about I’m about to invite up the to invite up
thedistinguished panelist and moderator. distinguished panel
ist and moderator. Before that I would
Before that I would like to make two
like to makeinvitations for you all. two invitations for
you all The first is that following our . The first is
that following ourconversation you
are invited to a conversation you
are inviteed to a reception, a reception, a dessert reception
over in dessert reception over in the
alumnithe alumni memorial commons which is in memorial
commons which is in the the Divinity School.
Divinity School. If you head out that way, the If you
head out that way, the staff will direct you. staff
will direct you. The second invitation is to come back The
second invitation isto the chapel
tomorrow evening. to come back to
the chapel tomorrow evening. We have our We have our worship
service at 6:00 p.m. worship service at 6:00
p.m. and the ensemble and the ensemble will be joined by the
St. will be joined by the St. Martin’s voice
voices Martin’s voices chore from London. chore from London
. With that, I would like to
invite up the panelist and moderator for
this conversation. [APPLAUSE] James: This evening’s
conversation is called preaching and the public square. It is
part of the series which seeks to connect people from different
walks of life in order to discover shared pathways towards
the beloved community of God. The panelist need little
introduction. They are known to many of you and even beloved
here in the chapel. I will begin at the par left
here. The reverend Dr. Sam Wells is vicar. Dr. reverend Luke Powery is our current dean, Bishop William was
dean here in the chapel from 1984 to
2004. That’s four decades worth of
Deanship this evening. We’re delighted to hear from them. We’re also honored to have Mr. Frank Stashio. He’s a warm and
familiar voice to us in the car and podcast. Frank will be
asking the questions at the beginning. You’ll have an
opportunity to ask questions later in the conversation. So look for an index card. You may write your question on
the index card. When it is time, Grace, who is one of the chapel scholars, she’s there
and one of the students here at chapel. She will collect the
cards and bring them forward. With that I would like it turned
over to Frank. Frank: Thank you, James. What a pressure to be here and
see all of you. I’m deeply honored to be with you and the
men in this space. They have honestly brought some of the greatest wisdom and some of the
greatest conversation to our program that I’ve had in the 12
years I’ve done it. I’m honor to be here tonight to
have the live consideration about what I consider to be an
important subject. Why don’t I start right now? If we’re
talking about preaching in the public square is whether or not preachers have a responsibility
to connect their thought and their preaching to not just the
public square but to current events and what’s happening now. Is it the responsibility of a
preacher to ensure that every sermon and homily in
the public and the headlines that concern all of us. Sam Wells, can I
start with you? Sam: I would say, no, it isn’t.
I hope that’s not too much against the grain. If you have
shown your congregation you can be trusted to speak
truthfully about God and to speak truthfully about what it is to be a human being,
then you might gain permission to speak
about more sensitive and controversial things. And I make it a rough policy to
speak about things such as the things that are very much on
people’s minds tonight. You know, maybe about one in
ten. You don’t ever — you know, the worst thing in preaching you can be is
boring. The last thing you want your
congregation to feel is they already know you are going to
stay before you step up into the pulpit. It is easy to become boring at
politics. It is easy because you can become very passionate
about it to mistake the faithful exposition of scripture
and proclamation for the very seriously held convictions that
you may exchange in the bar afterward. But they are not the
same thing. You’ve been hired and
commissioned and invited to preach about God and
salvation. From time to time, you knee to point out that the
gospel is always personal and always political. You have to
choose your moment. You have to do it properly. You can’t do it in glancing
blows that just make stray remarks. You
have to do something that’s clearly grounded or in doctoral
exposition and doesn’t sound like you are just another person of your
particular social background sounding off about your personal views. Dean Powery: I think any
preacher the calling is to preach the gospel. As Sam said
it is personal and communal and political. What I mean by political is
having to do with the city state and having to do with the world. It is not thinking about
bipartisan politics. It is not liberal or
conservative. It has to do with Jesus Christ. I think there are times — we’ve
seen that historically that there are times that explicit headlines may be
mentioned. I agree it is not necessarily the norm. I want to say that preaching the
gospel has to do with the intersection of the biblical and
context in the world that somehow hearers as they
listen there’s a resonance this is pro
nobeis. It is for us. Whether it mentions the headline
or not, it is intersecting with our lives and world. There are
many ways to do that that that can happen. I think I also would want to
say, yeah, the gospel even if we
think about Jesus, he was the gospel in word and teed. He he was very much engaged with
what was going on in the world and
society. So I think there’s the challenge for us to be engaged in word and
deed as it relates to the political realm.
Frank: Okay. Will? Will: I was disturbed when Sam
said you shouldn’t do this in glances and
blows. I’m guilty of that. I confess
it. (Laughter). Will: Sometimes you want to get
into something and get out. Right away. And move on. But I
like that. I any for me preaching must be
biblical. That’s kind of my job. That’s
something I know about. I think I’ve been authorized to do that by the congregation. Of
course if you know much about the bible, you know it is — it is
political. And as far as contemporary
events, I think one of the difficulties sometimes we preachers have is it is — it
is hard — it is not self-evident what
the word from the Lord might be on
various contemporary events. Another problem I think we have
is one reason you come to church and listen to sermon, I think, is to pay
attention to what’s important. The scripture sets the tone for
the conversation and the subject matter. A lot of the things
that the world says, oh, this is very important. This is a
current event. You need to focus on this.
Scripture might say, hmm, you know, it is not that big in the scheme of
things. And so sometimes church can seem
to people out of touch with current
events or reality, and I remember the
person who accosted me at Duke Chapel
at the door and said, you know, you
preachers never talk about anything that I’m deeply
concerned about. I said but I know you and I know some of the stuff you are concerned
about. It is just not that interesting. I mean —
(Laughter). Will: The first Sunday of the
year the signed gospels the flight into
Egypt. A young pastor said today is the
day that we thank God that Egypt received the holy family as
refugees and immigrants. Because if they had not, we
might not have been saved. I thought wow.
Frank: I love that. I know what you are interested in.
Frankly it is not that interesting. Is that one of
those glancing blows that you deliver now and then.
Will: You don’t want an extended conversation. You want
a glance. Frank: That’s a conversation
stopper. Will: Yeah. Frank: But the church to be
church there has to be a structure. And moral certainty about
things. There’s doctrine and Jesus and
ways of explaining things. I would like to play a clip. This is Desmond Tutu. It is from a talk in 1986. I would like to play the clip. Male: And the scriptures say we
have a God. A God who takes sides he
scandalizes people because there he was
choosing to be on the side, to lead them out
of bondage into the promised land
of his kingdom. He is forever the same. Yesterday, today, and therefore. A God who chooses to be on the
side of the depressed and hungry and
homeless of the deposed — depiesed ones we
are able to say to the perpetrators of oppression
everywhere in the world, you’ve already lost. You’ve lost. You have lost.
How can you take on God?>>Desmond Tutu in 1986. A fair
agree of certainty there. The very one you referenced that
puts God on the side of the oppressed
and says to those who would inflect
justice on them, you just wait. He’s certain. What do we do
about that? There’s a case where it appears
to me for every issue according to the brief clip we know where
God stands. Do we? And how do you preach that? All right. Luke, you are next. Luke: I think when it comes to
God, I think just on that point first,
if we knew everything about God, we
would be God. So there’s a level of
comprehensibility, but there’s also a level of
incomprehensibility. We don’t know everything that
there is to know. There’s a level of intellectual and
spiritual humility that’s important in the Christian life. And but at the same time even
knowing that we sort of follow the path
of faith seeking understanding; right? Which part of that in
the Christian tradition is engaging scripture
and interpretation. I think it would be hard to
argue against as we sort of look at at
the whole counsel of God. That we often as Desmond Tutu
would say we often find God on the
side of the oppressed. Jesus himself was poor. Was an oppressed Jew. Was as Howard Thurman and his
book “Jesus and the disinherited” was
for those whose backs are up against the wall. And in many ways, that’s at the
Jesus that I want to follow. And which is so often why
Thurman would make a distinction between
the religion of Jesus and Christianity. Interestingly
enough. This was a man who obviously grew up in the time of
segregation and was in the generation of Martin Luther
King senior, deans of the chapel at Boston and Howard. Coming out of a particular lens
which I totally understand he focused
in many ways on the human human Jesus,
who Jesus was, and in relationship to the poor and even what we call the
inauguraller inaugural sermon of Jesus and
Luke. It is inescapable the idea that
we followed a God, Jesus, who
walked in the wilderness, had no place to lay his head, and was a
refugee. As you mention, Will. In many ways we follow the God.
While at the same time our understanding is not the
totality of who God is. It doesn’t cover all that is —
can be said about what God is. Will: I think to me scripture
is pretty clear. This God has certain
commitments. And Jesus of Nazareth becomes an
unsubstitutable — you can’t make God anything you would like
to make God. God is a Jew from Nazareth who
lived briefly and died violently and
rose unexpectedly. We’re stuck with that. I think particularly coming to a
place like Duke Chapel, I remember
Will Campbell, who was a friend of
mine that preached some memorable sermons from Duke
Chapel. I remember the first time I let him in for the
service, he looked around. I said it is a beautiful building,
isn’t it? He said that wasn’t what I was thinking. I said
what were you thinking? He said he sure come a hell of a
long way from Bethlehem. Well — that — and I think for somebody privileged, powerful, well to-do
like me, I think it’s helpful just to try to keep acknowledging that great
gap. For me when Jesus comes, it is
often with judgment. On the other hand it is — kind
of we gather and the business of our gathering is who is God? A. And then B) what is God up
to? And C) how can we get on board
with that? And therefore God takes sides.
Okay. By the way, God has not taken the side that you are in.
Right now. Your privileges and power and all. What does that mean for you? I remember — maybe you’ve heard of my
stories. But I remember we invited a group of students over
to the house after chapel one Sunday. We’re all at a picnic.
Then we — they are playing basketball. And this student
said, you know, I’ve never been in a faculty home the whole time I’ve been at Duke. That’s
terrible. I believe in relating to students. Our home is open
to students. I like students. He said, you know, I’m so glad
to be here. You have a beautiful home. I said thank
you. Let me ask you, as a Christian,
how do you justify having such a nice home? I said, okay, this is over. I will never admit a student
into my house again. But it — to me it was kind of a
great moment. And I love that about students
— some students — in that moment they remind you, by the way, Jesus Christ
was not a tenured professor at a major
university. Sam: I’ve got three things to
say about Desmond Tutu. Think about when he said it and who is in charge of South Africa now.
I wonder how long the meek will keep the earth after they inherit it. I think we have to be careful
about the sense that once we’ve thrown out the oppressors that
we ourselves have done a better job. The second thing to say is he’s talking about the Egyptians
oppressing the Israelites. If you look at who consumes the
majority of the worlds resources today in the face of the ecological
crisis, it is uncomfortable reading for people living in
America to find out which side of that story they are on today. And to preach week after week
the message of judgment that says,
hey, y’all, you are the Egyptians, is a brave person in
any congregation. And the third thing to say is it
is debatable today in the story of
the Egyptians and Israelites or should we say the Israelis who are the
oppressors and who are the oppressed in
Gaza today. Frank: I think it leads to the
question then, if you do assume that God takes sides. For the
moment you assume you know which side you were on. I was raised catholic. The
catholic bishop when I was coming of age all knew I was on
the side of the United States of America against the people of
Vietnam. They knew that because they felt
there was an atheist communism that was going to develop in the
world. Not enough faith in the in their
own God to wipe out the scourge.
They were — they said God was on their side and flew the flag
in heaven. This leads to the problem. When you know when God
is on your side and when you know that you have the God who
can be taken on. To Luke’s point — both of you — I think
all of you have one way or another mentioned this. There’s
a certain amount of humility that you need to have coming in.
We can’t know God fully. In that sense then what is the role
of the pastor and what is the role of the church? How do you preach in the face
not of certainly which was the first part of this discourse, but in the
acknowledged uncertainty? What do you do now? Because you are recognized as
the authority. Will, I want to start with you this time. Will: You know, humility, and
Jesus Christ induces humility in us.
You know, who crucified Jesus? Who detrayed Jesus? Well, his
own inner circle. That’s all in the story. And I think one of
the challenges is not allowing our humility to
paralyze us. John Milbank, theologian, says
modern Christian theologies has a sort
of false humility. God — oh, God, we can’t say anything for
sure about God. That would be intellectually
wrong. God is large. Indefinable. We wish. God is a Jew from Nazareth that revealed the truth about God. That’s a claim. It does mean I can be humble
about my own knowledge and abilities and
strength to change things. At the same time my greatest
claim is for reasons known only to Jesus Christ, he picked me. To be his spokesperson, and to
be his witness. And so on Sunday morning, I
address a bunch of people. Many of whom I wouldn’t have selected if I were putting the army
together. But they are the ones Jesus is
conveying. I love the moments. I didn’t have as many as I would
wish. I love the moments when someone
comes out and says I have a very tough decision this this week.
The service was helpful. Or the pen who comes out and
says do you know how hard it is to be a Christian and a sophomore at the
same time? And I was — — as a preacher
you get to equip that. I do feel that Jesus Christ
chooses not to save the world by himself. He keeps enlisting, delegating,
and art of the role of preaching is
to say to people ask questions whose
side are you on? Where are you up you investing
your energies? How are you utilizing your energies? Just for yourself? Luke: That’s me. Frank: You can just say what
Will said. Luke: Two things come to mind
about the question. The first thing is a profession
that we make a claim that we have to
make. So with the uncertainty there’s still a confession that we make that
God is with us. Even with all of the questions
and cries of anguish, concerns, that
we believe that God is with us. God’s presence. Which means we don’t necessarily
have all of the answers. But God has chosen to be with us
through God’s love. He has chosen us. And then the other thing is a
story where there are disciples, it says, who had not heard of
the holy spirit. They were disciples. But they had not yet heard of
the holy spirit. So they asked Paul, what is the
holy spirit? Paul prays for — over some
people what you have is they prophesize
and spoke in tongues. For he it represents the gift of the spirit is both comprehension,
that’s the speaking, and also also not
comprehended. Incomprehensibility is a gift of
the spirit as well. To rest in the uncertain if uncertainty can be a gift. Sam: Got the pent costal in here. Will: I preach. Sam: It was
the 11th of November. I can’t remember the details of
my sermon. It was utterly compelling. But not as it turns out
unforgettable. And there was a woman who was
sitting straight and this was a small bunch of a dozen people in
the city church. There was a woman in front of me who was toeding nodding at all of
the good parts. When I finish I decided rather than say the
creed, I thought it would be good if we sang a hymn together.
And I — the spirit took me. And I realized that I should be
bold. I should say to this
congregation, you know, who are advanced in age, many of them,
you know, this is probably a special weekend for a lot of
you. So you may want to choose a
particular hymn. It turned out nobody did want to
choose particular hymns. I look straight at the woman who had
nodded at all of the right moments. I said, well, I think maybe the
Lord wants you to choose a particular
hymn tonight. And the person next to her said
don’t worry about her, love, she’s
deaf. That story gave me, I hope, a
decent sense of humility and preaching. It has never left
me. The theology of the story is what the holy spirit does in
the heart and mind of a listener is actually
sometimes so different and almost completely unconnected
with what was in the heart and mind of the speaker. And so the preacher can pray any
prayer they want to pray in the introduction to their sermon.
But the real prayer is that the holy spirit will do something with
whatever people here. Which it is only the ego of the preacher that needs that to be. Will: You see once you set up
the context and say the spirit is always among us, and we don’t know what
can generate activation and manifestation. We don’t know
what that is. Then we really do raise a serious question about
the role of the preacher. I want to put it into different
context. I think you’ve raised a good question. The context
really is the religious coalition. I know that you are
very deeply engaged in that when you were
here, Sam Wells, and wrote a book about the notion of being
with those who are in need rather than being for them. This is a great act of humility
all by itself. As a member of the coalition, I
would just say this briefly, personally to set up this
question. It was utterly transformative to go through the
process. Because I thought that was easy. I’m with you. I’m
with you. But to be with you, I had to shatter my ego and
explore my rage at those who were doing the oppressing. I had to identify that rage as
grasping for power. My fear of powerlessness that my
outrage and my articulation of the problem and the people who
are causing it had everything to do with my fear of
powerlessness. And when I recognize that and acknowledge my powerlessness,
and only then, could I be with the people
whose powerlessness had always been unquestionable and didn’t
have to bring themselves through that. I only tell that story
because I wonder if the pastor has that
kind of a role. In other words the really challenging part of pastoral care has less
to do with issuing the outlines of
amorality than it has to do with guiding us to the inner self.
The one that we find most difficult to meet. I leave that
to you. Let me start with Sam.
Sam: I always try to — if we’re saying with preaching, to
make the comparison to pastoral care, I just stepped
into my old office the first time in seven years. It was the — the first thing I
thought about was two of the chairs that were in there were
the chairs that were in there when I was there and about what I was trying to do when people
and I’m looking at and seeing a number
of people who sat in the two chairs with me during my time
here. When I was trying to do in those
conversations. I hope it is not getting away
too many trade secrets to say to hear the person out and to be
with them. And then the crucial moment in
the conversation is the pause when
they finished. And then I would say was there
something else? And whether it is an ungraduate
student who learned this at some stage in high school. Some
mysterious preuniversity time that I wouldn’t have access to
or whether it is a person in the middle of life or whatever it
might be. Nine times out of ten the big story they told you when
they walked in the door actually isn’t the real
thing. It is tissue it is only when you
say and was there something else? That by trusting you after them
listening to them and not interpreting them 25 minutes,
they then spend the next 20 minutes telling you the
real story. They didn’t trust themselves to articulate or you
to hear until you had that silence. Which opened the door.
And I tried to structure sermons in pretty much the same way. That’s to say the — there’s
many people here who have heard far
more of the sermons than is good for
anybody. You can probably tell it is back to me. The
introduction is usually fairly soft. It is a sorry about when
I was a child, or something rather strange that happened in a film, whatever it
might be, and then about a third of
the way through the something that turns
that into, ugh, we’re suddenly you are saying, no, no, no, this is
really serious. And again you gain the trust of
the listener by them recognizing
that the thing that you’ve mentioned at the very bottom is what’s at the bottom
of their pontoon. Not necessarily at the bottom of
their pond in identical content, but in quality of emotion. And it is that is what makes
people walk out and say I thought you were just talking to
me. I didn’t know you were talking about their particular
circumstances. It is that, ugh. If you started the sermon with
that, it would be impossible to hear. They also think this preacher
was so emotional, they wouldn’t be able to contain it. That creates so much anxiety we
wouldn’t hear the rest. It is probably something I learned in
pastoral preaching, rather than the other way around. Will: I think I like is there
something more? To me the holy spirit is the
something more. Sam, — I think Sam told me he
met me through a sermon I preached
entitled “More” here. It means I’ve never preached
alone. Luke has spoken positively about
the holy spirit. I just testified I think one of
the greatest challenges I had in preaching was learning to work
with the holy spirit. I mean working under the holy
spirit I think I liked to be in control. It is probably a gender problem.
But I just kind of like to know where we’re going to be by noon,
and, you know, a preacher quickly learns
why the holy spirit just loves to rip somer is hon out of your hands and go
through the congregation wildly. I’ve noticed the holy spirit in
my experience often speaks to the wrong people. People that I had no intention
of communicating with. And also I’m — but it could be hopeful for a preacher. Because
I’ve never succeeded in preaching so poorly that the
holy spirit didn’t find some way to intrude
and say something to somebody and you
have these experiences and people come out and they say
that was just wonderful. That was the best sermon. I’m thinking, hey, I know more
about preaching than you do. That was not a good sermon. It
was bad. But in those moments, you realize we don’t work alone. And God talks to who God wants
to talk to. And on the other hand, God appears to not talk to
those who God does not want to talk to. And it is just — it
is part of the venture of preaching. That’s the something more.
Preachers always say more than they intended to say. I think that’s the holy spirit. Frank: Before we go, I love the
pact that you just said that Luke
spoke very positively of the holy spirit. Will: He’s a Pentecostal.
Yeah. Frank: Very nice things about
the holy spirit. I just once hearing a sermon
where the preacher — it was a priest that said Jesus said, and I think I agree
— agree — (Laughter). Frank: You are not off the
hook. Go ahead. Luke: Just to pick up on what
Sam was talking about:listening. Often as preachers we don’t
think. There’s not much literature on
it. In terms of thinking about the
role of silence. And the role of sort of a
sacrament of pause or what I call the hush
and how it is the first posture for a
preacher or prophet is to listen. And that’s to God, the
scripture, and to the other, the person and
from that — but because I — in my own
perspective think listening is really a form of loving. It is
a form of love. And in the end I think pastoral
ministry preaching — it is ultimately the hope is for it to be a rendezvous of love. Love for
life and gratitude to be alive. For me listening is to much
linked to loving that person or people or
a place or a God. Frank: I want to ask another
question here. I’m going to ask also to play another tape clip.
I’m going to go out of order here. I’m going to go to the
third clip in a second. Could I ask Grace to pass among you and
if you have a question, Grace is going to hand out some cards.
Feel free to write your questions on the cards and pass
them up. Then we’ll ask those. But I would like to play this
clip. This is Rosemary Radford
Rutherford. She’s one of my peeps. She’s a catholic. I didn’t know her. This is from a talk entitled
“Religion as a sacred canopy or prophetic
hope.” Rose Mary: Christians tend to
forget those drawing on the condition continue to justify
slavery until well into the 19th century. A hierarchical model of the
church was closely connected with a hierarchical model of society. In contrast to this view of the religion and the sacred canopy
to the order there’s deeply routed in scripture the alternative perspective. In the prophets and religion, it
is seen as socially unsettling and
even a subversive power. In the words of the magnificent,
the prayer of Mary, at the beginning
of the gospel of Luke, it says that
Christ will come to put the mighty down from
their thrones. And raise up the humble. Frank: So my question is
whether or not the church has a responsibility and preachers have as their agents
and assigns have the responsibility to upset the
social order. Is there — do you need to be on
guard for — on guard against a religious order that can be in
service to a social order which may or may not be socially
unguest? Will: I think the answer is yes
to that. Jesus Christ was crucified for a
reason. The first people to recognize he was a threat to the
social order was powerful and those that crucified him. I
was thinking though as she was preaching, I think it was in the
’70s. Frank: It says here 1982. Will: 1982. Sam: I think for Will, the 70’s
went on longer than for the rest of us. Will: Didn’t we agree we
wouldn’t criticize each other. Ahhh — the — Luke: That’s why I’m in between
them actually. Will: But as she was talking I
was thinking one there was a day when the sentiments probably had more
pull than they do today. It is a good bit around here. I think what makes Duke Chapel
unusual is there are — there’s preaching that would be called disruptive,
radical, and in many places sometimes that
kind of preaching here can be kind of pandering to the
establishment. I was telling Sam we — this
summer we had a succession of guest
preachers and a layperson who is here tonight. After this huge screening of the
President’s administration in Washington, not at Duke. And I’ll — anyway. This
layperson said to me, wow, you preachers are so courageous.
Wow. To stand up at Duke University
Chapel and criticize Donald Trump. Wow. That must take
courage, doesn’t it? And I — you know, that’s the
kind of thing that makes you despise lay people. Would you
all agree with me that’s the particularity of the place. And at times when I would travel
people said I’ve been to Duke Chapel. You can get away with saying
anything. I said often you can. That’s not a compliment to the
congregation. What do you think, Sam? Sam: If you look at Mark’s
gospel, it is three stories. It is Jesus in conversation with
a committed group of disciples. It is Jesus in conversation with
the poor, the word occlous means the
crowd is mentioned 37 times in the
chapters. Sometimes testy dialogue with
the authorities at the time. And, of course, you know, at the cross, those three stories all
weave together back into one story. I think I — I take that
as a guide for preaching. That you are always addressing
the intimate relationships of faith. The ones that faith
brings about, and the ones that faith tests and
questions. You’ll always in dialogue with those on the
underside of history. And very much aware that that
could be you, perhaps as been you, maybe
will be you. You are always going to be
working out faith’s relationship with those in authority. Although one must never assume
that the power all lies with them. And the truth always lies with
one’s self. Those three dialogues all bring their own
temptations. You know, the temptation of the intimate is to
make the gospel a little house on the prairie with wisdom whisperedded into ears and
nighttime reflections, but nothing more than that. The temptation of the second is
to speak for the poor rather than with or enable the poor to
speak for themselves. Even if they say things different from
what you think the poor ought to think. Which rightly or
wrongly, the poor do tend to think things different from what
they think or ought to think. If what they ought to think is
what you would say for it. And the temptation of the third is always to denounce and never to
build. You know, we have an institution across the road
here. The Divinity School. It is a remarkable institution. It
is a growing institution of faith that has grown in an error
were most people of faith has been
denouncing institutions. That’s taken a lot of courage
and leadership against the grain. I admire it. There’s always temptations to
choose one of the three or domesticate
or fall into the easy option of those three. I think it has a
healthy balance. Luke: The only thing I would
add is I think there’s often a tension
even in a glorious space like this. It is what — how to you —
preach against the powers when you are propped up by the
powers? I think that’s a living
institution. Institutional religion in many ways that has endorsed or baptized in
the name of Christ as they point to
the horrors of slavery or other ways. I remember meeting with
about — there were about eight CEOs that were here that was
connected with the Duke alum who was a trustee at the time. Who
from all over the world. They wanted to have a
conversation about religion and spirity. And we held that conversation in
the crypt of all places. And what was so — this is about
two years ago intriguing, you had someone
grow up in the church but not really connected. There was one
let’s say practicing Christian. There was one practicing Muslim. And then the rest were sort of
on the fringe. And this that conversation it
become very clear. They affirmed the idea that it
wasn’t — for them it wasn’t Jesus who was the problem. It was the institutional church.
And I think we live within that tension constantly. And we have created
institutions, divinity schools. I mean this school is deep roots
come out of the church; right? The university as a whole. It
is a blessing in many ways. There’s the ongoing tension
about how in this day, how can we be
faithful in the midst of, you know, the powers that are at
work? Frank: Let’s make that the next
question. I know if questions are out there. Bring them up
now. Let me follow up and say how do you address that? There’s a growing unhappiness,
dissatisfaction, millennials are leaving the church because it is
an institution and they don’t trust institutions. What’s the
responsibility of preachers who believe in what they are doing
and the integrity of the institution? What is it about them or the
institution that isn’t making connection and what responsibility do you
have to — thank you — if any to meet
that challenge? How do you do it? Sam: I’m afraid I don’t quite
understand the question. Frank: Millennials are running
away from the church. They don’t like the institution. You
represent the institution. What do you do about that? Sorry, I
hate to see you go. I’ve got my church to defend. Do you reconstruct the church or
reconstruct their understanding of what you do? Sam: Well, I lived on a housing
project in the east England for six
years in the late 1990’s and early 2000s. You can call them the 70’s, if
you would like. And that was an — what you
could call an underclass estate. And what I learned there was
that institutions are how we pass on
wisdom from past to future. And when you either live in or outside of the
institution, you make sure no way to pass
wisdom on from past to future. The ten ten si of those —
tendency of those that are four warehouse is to assume there’s no wisdom from
the past that compares with my future. Actually I would from my own
experience, raise an eyebrow at the lack of
humility that assumes that the problems in the world come from institutions and can
be solved by charismatic individuals. I think part of
what we’re experiencing in the populous movement, not just in
this country but elsewhere at moment, is a similar naivety
and arrogance that if you get the right person that can knock
people’s heads together, you can do a loop that bypasses the
institution and achieves truth. But actually what’s really going
on is manipulation and over simplification on all
kinds of levels. So to the millennial, I say not
let’s use a word like institution. Which in itself sounds clunky
and unexciting. Let’s have a conversation about what wisdom is and how — that’s both
wisdom in theory and in practice. And how you pass that wisdom
from one generation to another. The surprises thing is how many
millennials who denounce institutions and don’t seem to have any
concern for parting on wisdom from past to future end up practicing law. What is law if not the
codification of why is practice passed on to the
next generation? Frank: Sam, let me ask you
about Jesus. He preached out of the
institution. He didn’t seem to be enamored. There’s very little
institution about how to do it or creating the institution.
How do you address that? Sam: By reading the Act of the
Apostles. It is the famous story about
preacher whose secretary always wrote the preachers sermons.
I’m sure you all know the story. The secretary never got any
credit. Once day the secretary lost her temper and the preacher was in the
pulpit and said and this points to the
heart of the philosophical issue that faces the whole world today
and turned over the page and just saw the words you are on
your own now. (Laughter). Sam: So with all do respect to
the holy spirit, the Acts of the Apostles
are you are on your own now. You have to sort it out. The Acts of the Apostles is a
series of improvizations on what spirit
lead institutions and what forms that can take. It is an undoubtly a critique of
the idea that we could get the perfect institution and have some
institutional form. Some form of the church which would be so perfect that we would believe
in that form rather than the spirit that infused it. But it — even in just the short number of chapters we’ve seen
that some models work better than others. And every single disciple 100%
is believing that they are
translating Jesus’ transformation into
sustainable form. I didn’t have to use the I word.
You are doing the same thing as building institutions. We get various critiques on how
they can go wrong. At a crucial moment in Paul’s
letters, that collecttivity of institution is called the body of Christ. So the idea
that we have a thing called the Jesus who is a free
spirit and just dances around things
and doesn’t have to pass motions and
go to conventions, and we have a thing called the body of Christ.
Which is somehow different from Jesus. The theological term for that is
nonsense. Will: I think particularly in
the culture we need to be careful
turning Jesus into the free spirit
anti-institutionist. I thought it was Jesus’ critique
of the — it reminded me of the scry teak of the university.
This is my home. I critique the institution as a dedicated institutionallesque as
somebody that’s been produced by the institution. I think with
millennials. We have some here tonight. They don’t like to be
categorized. I’ll probably pay for this. When anybody says I don’t like institutized religion or
organized religion, they mean I don’t like the church. When Sam pointed to the The Acts
of the Apostles, I know a great
commentary. It is the nature of Jesus Christ
not to save alone. He sends people out in Matthew
28. He says make disciples. Baptizing, teaching, and it does
point to a scandal in a radically individualized culture where awe
ton where autonomy and individuality
is worshiped, Jesus has his work
cut out for him. Part of being a Christian is
being forced by God and Jesus to
worship with people you don’t like. And having to break bread
with them and listen to them. That’s just what Jesus does. This is just a speech I wish I
could made in the general conversation yesterday. I’m
making it to you. On front. So I think there’s a lot at
stake here. It does concern me declining
attendance. It does concern me people saying, well, I’m
spiritual, but I just — I don’t do the religion thing. I think Jesus has a bodty. The only way he’s present is —
it’s a heck of a way to save the world. I think it is uniquely
his way? Luke: The only thing I would
say is maybe another way of talking about institutions is
hearing and using the word body. We have bodies. As a way to pick up on the
metaphor for body. Which signifies unite and
togetherness. There are bodies at work and play trying to be as faithful to
Jesus along the way. Frank: We have time for a few
questions. I’m asking the questions to preachers. Which is why we only have time
for a few. The first one is a dilly. Take this, can a Christian have
any degree of wealth and comfort? You are the guy with the big,
fancy, alumni house. Will: I hope so. Frank: Wealth and comfort. And
I like to keep it if you don’t mind. I mean what about that?
The idea that, you know, one — can you be wealthy? Can you have wealth and comfort
and call yourself a Christian? Sam: It is an issue I struggled
with for a lot of my life. I was very angry as an
undergraduate. I was at Oxford University. It was only a little bit nicer
than you. And I was very angry. It seemed to be — you know, it
shocked me. Some things change my mind. And one was to recognize what a
mean person I was turning into. And I was becoming angry about
beauty. And not just about wealth. I
was stopping being able to tell the difference between the two. The second was when I had a lot
of money in my own hands about $50
million of government money that was poured through the same
housing project that I talked about before. I had a lot of influence how it
was distributed. I realized how difficult it was
to make the world better with money. What that taught me was that
poverty isn’t fundamentally about money. Poverty is a mask we put on
people to hide their true wealth. And wealth is a ask
that we put on people to hide their true poverty. That
changed my life. That discovery. So then I married somebody that
had money. Suddenly it was a different conversation. You know, she had inherited
money. And I realized to simply give
that money away was not to honor somebody else’s father and
mother. One had to spend that money in a
way that made other people able to
benefit from it. This may sound personal. We renovated the
house on east campus here and made it a meeting place for
people from the city and from the university and the wider
community. Because it seemed better to do
that than to bury the money in the
hillside. It would seem better to put it to the use of the community. So I think if you have — John
Wesley is the best person on this subject. Giving it away is sometimes
letting go of responsibility and letting your hands be more important than wisdom.
But holding it in a way that means everyone can share it. I think it is a way to get the
best of both worlds. I’ve come to realize about all of my possessions that the real test
is can I lend them or share them with
others. Or to they — am I holding them
so tightly that I won’t let anyone else touch them and see
them. You know if it is the latter, then it is a problem.
If it is the former, then it is a gift. It belongs to us all.>>. Will: You mention John Wesley. I remember attending a temple
choir. He accosted me one Sunday after I preached a sermon
condemning everyone that had more money than I had. And Dick
said — Dick who knows more about John Wesley, knows stuff
the Lord has forgotten, but Dick said,
you know, you think you preachers make a
mistake in your castigation of the
wealthy. I said I’m a Wesleyan. He said John Wesley had more
rich people in their methodist
societies than were in the percentage of the
population of London. I said wait, all of the societies were
in the poorest parts of London? Dick said they were? But for reasons that I’m not
sure of, wealthy people were attracted to
John Wesley’s gathering of poor people. He said and Wesley was
rerentless in his pursuit of their wealth in
saying, here, — he had in his diary,
Dick has published John Wesley’s diaries, he said he would go door to door and
said I need 100 pounds today. They would say, no. Well, then
let us pray. Then I will expect a check. He would cast them out
of the society — anyway. I think that point is it is —
this is a place of the powerful and
privileged. We do have a sacred obligation
to help them find suitable vocations and
— Luke: I think the keyword is
stewardship. To answer the question. The keyword to me is
stewardship. How are you using your wealth
for the purposes of God in the world and
in your community, even in your life; right? We’re stewards. Even of all of
the wealth and even thinking about Duke chapel. We’re
stewards of the building. We’re stewards of the people. We’re
stewards of the financial resources and human resources. With all of these blessings, how
can we be a blessing? And so, yes. Is the answer.
Frank: I’m going to ask one more. I’m sorry I don’t have
time to get to all of them? There’s a reception after this.
You can corner them and ask all of your questions. If a preacher’s calling is to
preach the gospel not politics can you express in two or three sentences —
says here, not me — I think this is a good way to end, can
you express in two or three sentences what is the gospel? Sam: We live with the weight of
the past. The pain inflicted upon us and the hurt that we have caused. That gives us the prison of the
past. We live with the fear of the
future . The anxiety about what lies
to come and the terror of what lies beyond death. That’s the
terror of the future. Our lives are circumscribed by
this prison of the past and feature
of the future. Jesus gives us the forgiveness
of sins that heels the past and gives us the life
everlasting that unlocks the future. So only when we are forgiven and empowered can we truly live in
the present. Luke: In a nutshell, you shall
live and not die. Because Jesus loves me and you,
this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Frank: Two sentences, Will. Will: Two sentences. In Jesus
Christ, God is getting back what belongs to God. Don’t you want to hitch on to
that? Luke: Amen.
Will: I could do it. You know I could do it.
Frank: Thank you very much. What a pleasure. Thank you. There’s a reception after this.