Tuesday, November 27, 2007

meeting a hero

About a month before Thanksgiving my good friend Andy called me up to ask about my plans for the holiday. I told him that I would be in San Antonio, with my wife's family. Since Andy is also from San Antonio we planned to get together. He also asked me if I would like to attend a conference while there. A conference where N.T. Wright was speaking. I immediately said yes. Then I talked to my wife about it. She said I could go.

Unfortunately, I didn't follow up at all. I didn't know where in San Antonio the conference was, what time or how much it costs. Andy ended up not being able to attend the conference. I was all by myself. I looked up the name of the conference on N.T. Wright's web site. I found an e-mail address and the night before the conference sent an e-mail asking about details. The next morning I was surprised to find a response. It would cost me only $ 12.50 to go to the conference for one session (that was all that our travel schedule would allow). I went.

The conference could have been 2,000 people or 200 for all I knew. I walked into the hotel expecting a large crowd of scholars and academics and was surprised to find a small crowd of lay people and ministers. As I was standing in line for registration N.T. Wright himself walked up and stood right next to me (talking to someone else). Margaret (my wife) even touched the hem of his garment. It was awesome. I would have been content with just that, but the night just got better.

There were only about 75 to 100 people in attendance. I was blown away. This is N.T. Wright, world renown NT scholar, sought after speaker, and author of over 40 books. Some people there didn't know him from Adam. It was great to see lay people and ministers alike seeking to learn more about NT scholarship and theology.

Wright did an excellent job. He spoke for about an hour and fielded questions for another. He is very English and sounds just like audio recordings you can find online. He was speaking on "The Bible and Tomorrow's World," in which he outlined 8 major issues facing the contemporary world. (I will post the 8 issues soon so that we can discuss them). He argued that the proper response to these 8 issues is a biblical theology of creation and recreation. It was standard fair for him. He did a lot with the Resurrection and trying to understand the Bible on its terms then letting it speak to the contemporary context. He took questions ranging from the significance of the incarnation in his theology to which translations he preferred. He was funny, intelligent and humble. If he was asked a question he didn't know he would answer, "I'm really not up on that particular issue so I'm not going to pontificate." I loved the way he said it, "Pont-I-fikAte," being careful to annunciate, he's English you know.

After he was done speaking we ended the night with a responsive prayer reading called complin. When the session was over, I hung around to see if I could maybe talk to ole Tom Wright (we're on a first name basis now that I've been in a room of 100 people with him). I walked over to him, he's actually a rather big guy (easily 6 foot 3) and stuck out my hand. He kindly shook while I told him how wonderful he is, and that if he only asked I would be his personal slave until Jesus comes back. He humbly turned down my offer for voluntary slavery and simply said, "Thank you." I told him I was a student and asked him what I should be reading. He said, "Well, If I was starting over again I would read a lot of Richard Hays and Miroslav Volf's Exculsion and Embrace. But, you really have to follow your nose. Whatever your interested in read it." If you would like to know what I'm interested in you can check out my Amazon Wishlist (feel free to make a purchase for my ministry).

After the book question I didn't know what else to say and there were more people waiting to offer their undying devotion so I just stood around and listened to him talk. It was a great night. I got to meet one of my heroes. The greatest part about the whole encounter was not the book recommendations or even the handshake, but the fact that Wright was so passionate about the church and about the Word of God taking root in our lives. He was a Churchman first and foremost. He was also a humble man who simply thought Jesus ought to be worshiped. It was an incredible experience.


Andy Rodriguez said...

Brother, I so wish I could have gone. Although while I would have loved to listen to Wright, you presence would have graced me more than his.

Anonymous said...

You can be his personal slave, and I'll be his male nanny. ("male nanny" is an inside joke I have with other people who'll never read this blog, but I thought it fit)

Unknown said...

You would make a great male nanny Michael.