surrounded by brilliance

Duke Chapel

Monday and Tuesday of this week, N.T. Wright and Rob Bell visited Durham to speak at the Pastors’ School and Convocation at Duke.  I am SO thankful that Christ Church made it possible for me to attend, and am still reeling from all the wonderful insight that those two amazing people shared with us.

Monday: Tom Wright

I didn’t realize that…

(a) N.T. Wright goes by “Tom” in his pastoral endeavors–and, I’m sure, in everyday encounters…

(b) He is British.  That means he has a British accent, and is REALLY fun to listen to, even if he weren’t saying the most incredible things.

Apparently these things are common knowledge, however, I am not in the div. school, nor have I gotten to read anything by Wright, (gasp!!) so these things are all new to me.

His lectures on Monday were centered around the question, “Why did Jesus live?”  People often talk about “Why was Jesus born?” and “Why did Jesus die?” but he was concerned with the bit between the stable and the cross, in his fun British words.

Wright mentioned something I never had noticed:  In the Apostle’s Creed, we completely skip over his ministry–

“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontias Pilate…”

Woah!  There is something so central to our faith based in the creeds, but Wright reminds us that if we base our entire theology on those creeds instead of scripture, we lose sight of the Gospel.

Tom later goes on to share what he notices in the Gospels about Christ’s life:  we see the way God is establishing His kingdom on earth through Jesus.

To be honest, I don’t want to write more, because I’m afraid of mis-representing what he said… there was so much, and I need to process it!


Tuesday: Rob Bell

Ahhhhh!  He was so wonderful.  I felt like an old friend was talking to me.  And he was saying things that I definitely needed to hear!  He focused on an unfamiliar phrase…

Eucharistic Paradox

The heaviness and lightness of Jesus

We must give ourselves in passionate devotion, but hold it loosely.

He shared about being with Desmund Tutu and the Dalai Lama, and how he watched them as they greeted one another.  They hadn’t seen each other in a long time, so they first embraced, and then… began to tickle one another and giggle!  These men had seen their fair share of suffering, yet there is a lightness in their sharing.

The Eucharistic part of that phrase comes from us living out the act of being broken and poured out.  He shared the actual translation of Eucharist, which is good + gift/grace.  He asks, “What does it look like for our church to be the body and blood for our communities?”

There are a great deal of things that are not in your control.



“That was the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Sometimes you work on something, let’s say, a sermon, for hours and hours.  You’ve really nailed this one, yet, you preach and only hear crickets.

Then, there’s the week when everything went wrong, you were sick, had to take care of your kids who were sick and out of school, etc… and you feel like this sermon is a homiletical turd. (his words, not mine!)  After THAT sermon, someone comes up to you and shares how it has touched their life like no other sermon.

That’s where the letting go part comes in.

He made three wonderful points, especially for people in ministry:

1. There will always be critics.  (I loved his statement, sheep have teeth.)

It’s not the initial negative comment, it’s you replaying it over and over in your head.  When we are holding what we do loosely, we are in a much better place to let those criticisms go.

2.  Failure.

“What every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential.”

He tells a story of a class of potters.  The teacher asks half of the class to make the most pieces they can in an hour.  He then tells the other half of the class to make the best piece they can.  After the hour is up, the half who were assigned to make the most pieces also turned out the best pieces.  While the other half were theorizing on what would be the best way to go about it, the others were simply trying and learning from their mistakes, and creating great things.

3. Outcomes.

“An extraordinary amount of leaders are exhausted… they signed up for a revolution, and are now managing a business.”

You must take care of yourself.  Is there a day that people can’t reach  you?  If you follow the gospels, you will see that

Jesus speaking to more crowds = more times Jesus withdraws.


The hour that Rob Bell spoke honestly felt like 10 minutes.  I, and hopefully others around me, felt so renewed and inspired by both scholars this week.  What a great experience, to be learning and surrounded by others who are seeking what you seek, too.  I’m so thankful for this experience!







2 Responses to “surrounded by brilliance”

  1. Alison Says:

    COOL!!! What fun. Thanks for the post. I love a little bit of outside inspiration (especially on a Monday!).

    Love you!

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