This is a 3-day conference, January 28-31.
"Up weak knees and spirits bowed in sorrow. No tomorrow shall arrive to beat you down!" So goes the brilliant English translation of a hymn first sung in 1636 in Bohemia, where the Thirty Years' War was raging with no end in sight.
Christian knees are wobbling in America today. This conference will explore God's unfolding response to that, inviting all who attend to a conversation about the power of the Gospel—the good news of Christ crucified and risen— to bring a sagging, weary Church to life again. We will follow St. Paul's lead in Romans 1:16-17, where he calls the Gospel "the power of God for salvation." He adds that in it "the righteousness of God" is on display, in a way that continues to invite human beings into the defiant joy of that Bohemian hymn: "God goes before you, and angels all around; on your head a crown!"
How will Christian people taste such joy in 2018? We too are caught in gloomy times that sap the spirit. Two of our speakers will help us name and face them. The first is Francisco Herrera of Decolonize Lutheranism, an advocate for diversity in the ELCA. The second is David Zahl of Mockingbird Ministries, and a lay minister at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ensuing conversation is bound to touch on many matters that weigh us down right now—
- the angry politics that prevail in our land
- the inability of Christians to address grave matters with a common voice; their horror on seeing other professing Christians back positions or persons that strike them as abhorrent
- a sense that Christian confession is more and more beside the point where the wider culture is concerned
- the steady erosion of church attendance; the disappearance of younger faces from our congregations
- the same threats and dangers that have everyone on edge in 2018: climate change, intractable wars, the concentration of wealth and power, the flood of refugees, eruptions of hatred and violence, the erosion of truth; and so on.
St. Paul, who speaks in Romans 1:18 of God's wrath on display, would likely see the righteous hand of God at work in all these things. He invites us even so to exult in God with unwavering confidence, for Christ's sake, urging others to do the same.
Three speakers will take the lead in helping us unravel this. Stephan Turnbull, of Community of Grace Lutheran Church, White Bear Lake, Minnesota, will use his expertise in Paul to address the Romans text. Kathryn Kleinhans, newly appointed Dean of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, will explore how Luther applied Paul's insights to his own fraught times. Matthew Becker of Valparaiso University will track these issues through the work of Werner Elert and Robert Bertram. All three will launch us into extended group discussion around focused questions, as we work together to "cross" our times with the Word of God. Our aim is to unfold how the Gospel is the very thing Paul says it is, the gift of gifts for Christians to employ and rejoice in for the sake of the world God loves today.
Jerome Burce will keynote the event and draw it a close with reflections from Mark, our gospel for the year. God willing, our time will include an evening of conversation with Crossings founder Edward Schroeder. Prayer, praise and thanksgiving will be an integral part of our gathering. We will meet our Lord Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
We pray that you will join us, and bring a friend.