I’ve been wanting to embarrass myself by sharing these stories for a while :)
I have a tendency to fall for scholars…I’ve had scholar crushes on various people. Quite well known scholars like Brian Walsh & N.T. Wright (I once dreamed about being the contact person for a speaking engagement in NZ – his car arrived in the rain and I held the umbrella for him – yep – embarrassing stuff!), and less-known scholars like most of the Carey Baptist Staff (i.e. – no offense to those not listed! – George Wieland, Tim Bulkeley & Myk Habets) and Laidlaw College Staff (i.e. Martin Sutherland & Mark Strom) and John Owens from Good Shepherd’s College.
Because I’m all about transparency, vulnerability & self-abdignation, I share two of the most embarrassing stories about two of these scholars: 1) Mark Strom & 2) Brian Walsh.
1) Mark Strom – I met Mark Strom at an Open Brethren Pastors Retreat and was smitten quickly after hearing him speak. He quoted from this little, worn-out bible and tied the Scriptures into an integrated whole like… well… like N.T. Wright, one of my (and his, it turns out?) favourite scholars to dream (literally – see above) about. I was leading the singing at that conference, and during a bit of free time, I’d snuck down to the hall (which was empty) and was plodding away at my guitar – in walks Mark with his guitar for a jam. He can play. Fun times. Smitten-ness increased. Then I got to ride in his car with him and his wife Sue and tell him about my upbringing in the Armstrongist movement. We were practically best mates (painfully embarrassing!).
Fast forward a couple or more years. I had attended all of the ‘Wineskin’ talks by Mark at Laidlaw College, and even started a blog about it (which – thank you very much – he participated in and got me to stand up and give the address for – no big deal…). I had asked him (and/or his PA) about speaking at one of our camps, and he’d not been able, but suggested we meet for breakfast. I arrived at least 10 minutes early and (maybe 60% unconscious / 40% conscious of what I was doing?) ‘happened’ to be reading ‘Climax of the Covenant’ by (yes) N.T. Wright as he walked in. If that wasn’t bad enough, just in case he’d not noticed, as we greeted each other, I closed the book and, in one of those moments that you shake your head about long afterward, said (something along the lines of), “Just digging into a little Tom Wright. I might even be understanding some of it!” (which, interpreted, means: ‘Hey Mark! I’m reading Tom Wright! You like him, huh? I read scholarly theology books, because… well… that’s what I do… so yeah…’)
His response and facial expression was gentle, yet spot-on: “I’m impressed.”
2) Brian Walsh – I had read ‘Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire’ (by Brian and his scholar-wife Sylvia C. Keesmaat) within months after Mark Strom (see above) recommended it at the retreat I met him at. It is still one of the most significant books I’ve read and likely will be for a long time. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to attend a seminar by him at CitySide Baptist a few years back, based on his then forthcoming book, ‘Beyond Homelessness’.
Me and my friend Pete McGhee (who is also a less well known scholar, but that’s another story) went along and got there quite early – having misunderstood the start time. We met Brian briefly who headed off alone to get a cup of coffee – we ended up joining him and had a nice chat and he signed my copy of ‘Colossians Remixed’ (score), of which (embarrassingly) most words therein were underlined…
Anyway, the conference had not been hugely publicized, so there were only about 30 people attending. Lunch break came. There was some food around at the site, and I was fortunate enough to be offered to have that. I sat down alone to eat, and Brian joined me and we had another nice talk, where (in answering his questions about this and that – he is quite friendly) I shared that ‘Colossians Remixed’ had inspired me to write a worship song with a kingdom theme. I honestly (honestly!) did not expect him to ask me to play it later!
So, the really embarrassing part came after my wife had joined me for the last hour of the day. I’d introduced her to Brian after the seminar had ended, and a few of us (including, of course, Brian) were talking casually. Brian was staying with one of the organisers, and (if I recall correctly) Brian was arranging a ride or something. For one reason of the other, I got the impression that people in general (and Brian in particular) were up for hanging out. At any rate, Brian had secured a ride, and turned to me and, no doubt just being interested and kind, asked, (something very close to) “So which direction is home for you guys?” My mind reached the instant conclusion: he totally wants to hang out. The translation was also instant within my mind: he had asked what we were doing… My mouth opened instantly and these words came out: “Us? Oh, we’re over the shore, but yeah, we have no plans…”
Oh the things we do and say, huh? :)
Now, off to bed for me – trip to Tairua tomorrow :)