Its hard not to be impressed by Washington on your first visit (and later ones too!) The convention hotel was not too far from the Mall, with Washington Memorial and White House within striking distance. But there wasn't much time to explore.
I was slated to preach at the first session of the Academy meeting. In fact many members were arriving from the airport just in time for this 6.30pm service. It was held in beautiful Mount Vernon Square United Methodist Church. Flights of white steps swept up to high main doors, framed by white columns. Inside, a magnificent sanctuary with dark elegant pews and stained glass windows focused on a central pulpit. Fairly small, with a central microphone, I tried it for size.
Others had planned the worship service with me, and we all felt the strangeness of beginning a conference in this different place. Everything seemed cold and something of an effort. Academicians began streaming in, acknowledging friends, looking at the program notes, and taking in the surroundings. After singing and praying I moved into the pulpit. The microphone popped as I spoke. In poor light I peered at the congregation. Several of my preaching friends were there.....and many others too.
What happened next? As I preached, I found myself in a place light years away from being in that preaching class on Monday. Even as I preached, I knew that many people were praying for me, and that the hard work of refocussing was proving helpful. It was one of those occasions when time just flew. I preached without notes (as I always seek to do) and led the congregation into visualizing the coming of God's messengers with beautiful feet - challenging because beautiful feet means being in God's right places. With references to C.H. Spurgeon, Jerry Springer (!), and many others...but especially focusing my preaching on the text !
Apparently, the sermon will soon be posted on the academy site, so you can hear it if you are interested. I'll give details when it appears. Next time I'll tell you what happened afterwards.