It was a quiet, but moving chapel service on October 30, 2013 as special guest Rev. Eugene Lowry preached a message titled "Talk about DEEP."
Lowry, former professor of preaching at Saint Paul School of Theology, and story guru Bobette Buster participated in the chapel service as part of the annual Brehm Lectures events. This year's Brehm Lectures are called "Gospel and Narrative: Creating a Telling that Earns a Hearing."
True to the style outlined in his book The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form, Lowry masterfully unfolded the story of Jesus calling his first disciples using personal anecdotes, drawing comparisons to present day things, inviting the audience to visualize the biblical scene, and calling their attention to specific images and emotions.
Lowry pointed to Simon Peter's reaction in Luke 5 when, following the instruction of Jesus, he brings in a staggering and surprising catch of fish. Scripture notes that when Simon Peter saw it, "he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'"
Why, Lowry wondered to the audience, would Simon Peter react in that way? "It was too big a success nearing the border of mystery," Lowry explained. "It was just too much."
In Rudolf Otto's book The Idea of the Holy, Lowry said, he mentions something called the mysterium tremendum—the feeling of awe or awe-fullness, something that is both fascinating and repelling because of the greatness of it. That, Lowry says, is what Simon Peter is feeling when he realizes the power of Jesus.
In the following verses, Jesus tells Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." And the disciples pull their boats up on shore and leave everything to follow him, Lowry marveled.
Look with me, Lowry said, at those two boats. How could they abandon the biggest catch, and profit, of their lives? "There's only one reason they could leave their best catch," Lowry said. "It's because when Simon said 'Go away,' Jesus didn't go away."
"When he said 'Go away,' he wouldn't go away," Lowry repeated. "No matter how unworthy Simon felt, [Jesus] didn't go away. He doesn't go away. He never goes away."
Lowry ended with Jesus' words to Simon Peter. "From now on," Lowry told the audience, leaving them to ponder what that message might mean to them.
Following the sermon, the Fuller Vocal Ensemble led the chapel in a quiet song of response. Bobette Buster continued with prayers of the people. The Fuller community prayed for the church, for peace, and for world leaders.
The Brehm Lectures continues with a film screening of Short Term 12 at 2:30 pm in Travis Auditorium followed by a discussion moderated by Lauralee Farrer. The evening lectures begin at 7:00 pm: Bobette Buster will give a talk titled "Do You Know the Story You're In or the Meta-Narrative Shaping Our Times?" and Rev. Eugene Lowry will speak on "The Primacy of Plot and the Modality of Orality." Go here to see the schedule of events.
The purpose of the Brehm Lectures is to bring notable Christian theoreticians and practitioners together to discuss vital issues at the intersection of art and faith. These lectures are offered to multiple audiences: the Worship, Theology, and Arts students at Fuller, the larger Fuller community, the greater Los Angeles faith and arts communities, as well as theologians and artists nationally. For more information about the Brehm Center, please visit their website.