This past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Andrea and I attended the 2008 Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver. We were two of the three lay voting members from Holy Shepherd.
The assembly began on Thursday with with a brief update on the tornadoes that struck Windsor and Laramie just a few hours earlier and a prayer for the victims. We then moved into the regular agenda with Bishop Bjornberg’s address on the history of the ELCA and how we got to where we are now. We also had the first of Mark Allen Powell’s bible studies before dinner. After dinner, we concluded the day with the first Eucharist of the weekend.
On Friday, we met at the church at 7 am and then carpooled back downtown for breakfast. After breakfast, we settled in for a long day of sessions. We had two separate sessions with Diana Butler-Bass during the day. Butler-Bass wrote the book “Christianity for the Rest of Us,” that we had just finished studying at church. Unfortunately her talks were a little disappointing because all she did was rehash her book and didn’t really add any new insights. We ended up leaving at 4:30 at the dinner break and skipped the evening hymn sing as a group.
Saturday began with a continental breakfast, then the final assembly session, and concluded with another Eucharist celebration. The preacher at the final Eucharist was very impressive, having memorized both the Gospel reading and his sermon. The sermon was on the “Don’t Worry” section of the Sermon on the Mount. It was one of those sermons that left me thinking that he must have been in our living room the night before when we were discussing some of these worries. It is truly remarkable when the Spirit works in that way.
Powell’s bible studies were definitely the highlight of the weekend as Powell discussed how cultural context influences interpretation of the Bible, using the story of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son to illustrate these differences. In the Good Samaritan study on Thursday he talked about the differences in who we identify with in the story compared to his travels to Tanzania. Here in the United States, we are taught to give help to those who need it, like the Samaritan did. In Tanzania, they relate to the beaten man in the ditch, and talk about the need to receive help from anyone who offers, regardless of differences.
In the Prodigal Son story, Powell talked about how in the United States, if you ask how the son ends up hungry, it is because he squandered his inheritance. But in St. Petersburg, Russia, it is because of the famine mentioned just one verse after the inheritance, because the city of St. Petersburg experienced a horrific famine during the German seige in World War II. But then if you go to Tanzania, it is because no one gave him any food in a foreign land, which is mentioned in the verse immediately following the famine. It was a really fascinating discussion on how much culture has to do with how we interpret the bible.
The weekend was definitely an interesting experience. Andrea and I have listed our names as a tentative yes for next spring’s assembly in El Paso, TX, and we hope to be able to go if circumstances allow.