Oh my God. The church we are in, Peachtree UMC has the most amazing sanctuary. New, stunningly gorgeous with phenomenal acoustics (though a little live, but perfect for the organ), and the most amazing organ. First up was an organ recital that was so splendidly a foretaste of heaven that I was in ecstacy (some of you have seen me in such a state, look at my picture from the Counting Crows concert, for instance -- in the photo album Bringing in the Silliness).
Barbara Brown Taylor preached on the Good Samaritan. Her emphasis was on how we find life not by belief but doing, as Jesus taught in this parable. Particularly, we find life when we draw close -- the first of the fourteen verbs that describe the Samaritan (as opposed to only two verbs each for the priest and Levite). She made a point about how in God's reign we always come back to love and care for humans in their bodily form.
It was quite spectacular to hear her in person. She was a little fast in her delivery, but otherwise wonderful. A great use of humour throughout the sermon, but combined with scholarly erudition.
After worship, Thomas Long lectured on how we should be concerned with the aesthetic quality in sermons. He talked about how sermonizing often follows a Kantian formula of first knowledge, then ethics, with beauty kinda tacked on. But what would change if beauty was our first concern? By beauty he used an Eastern Orthodox sense of something that draws us with mystery and awe to desire something beyond ourselves. He said that our sermons should not succumb to the contemporary use of language that has lost eloquence and refers to nothing. He said that our language is too focused on simple things because we have become too focused on simple things. Preaching should avoid this by using language that evokes mystery and awe, though at the same time "not dancing too far from the language of the streets." He cited some brilliant examples of this, the best a C. S. Lewis sermon.
Tomorrow Long will preach and Taylor will lecture. Peter Gomes will lecture and then preach after that!