When I arrived at Austin Graduate School of Theology in the fall of 2005, I knew how to write and how to speak; I did not know how to read the Bible or preach. Two years of excellent theological training at the feet of Austin Grad’s faculty gave me the solid foundation and start I wanted. Since then, the yearly Sermon Seminar provides the ongoing education and spiritual renewal I need.
For 48-years, the Austin Grad Sermon Seminar has been the go-to, roll-up-your-sleeves working conference for those of us who proclaim the Good News every week. The school annually brings together the best of our preachers and teachers of preachers to provide exegetical support, expository assistance, and homiletical help. It’s a combination worship retreat and sermon-planning session drenched in encouragement, faith, Christian hope, and joy. And the seminar last week was as good as any of them.
I was blessed by the fiery passion of Jim Reynolds as he opened the doors to the jailhouse church of Colossians and challenged us to view and preach all of Scripture through a Kingdom of God lens. I laughed out loud at the witty one-liners and quietly reflected on the penetrating insights of Mark Hamilton, who presented the Decalogue with authority and honesty. Hamilton at once amuses and convicts the whole room when he says of the Ten Commandments, “I thought if I ran short on time I would just skip the unpopular ones. Turns out, that’s all of them!” Harold Shank has such a remarkable way of making the ancient words feel like they were written yesterday, he left me trying to figure out how I could get away with preaching a two-year series from Deuteronomy. And Allen Black reminded us of the grand themes of the Gospel of Luke, inspiring us to declare and commit to the world for which our Lord lived and died.
A preacher can get solid exegesis and theological insights from any number of fine conferences. But at Austin Grad, they begin, end, and saturate every session with how it might all benefit the Church. How does the Church need to hear this? Why is this important for the Church? How does this passage increase faith? How do these verses help people live better lives and make sense of the chaos that surrounds them? Those are the questions that drove my professors fifteen years ago and still seem to be at the heart of Austin Grad’s every intent.
Every year, I leave the Sermon Seminar better equipped, encouraged, and inspired for the task to which I am called. I would invite you to make your plans with me now for the 49th event in 2020.