Thursday, July 26, 2012

Preaching in the Midst of Evil

This past weekend, we experienced yet another mass shooting of innocents. We saw the pictures on TV of the theater in Aurora, CO and were once again dismayed and bewildered by the horror we inflict upon each other in this world.

One man - a mentally ill person, a modern day terrorist, a bad man, or just a mixed up guy - used the guns he had acquired to rain terror on a group of innocents at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. It was evil and violent. It was tragic and horrific.

So what happened on Sunday in worship services around the country?

Some preachers discussed the shooting only in their prayer time, some had a moment of silence for the families involved, some addressed it fully in their sermons, and some avoided it because they did not know how to address the evil from the pulpit.

The truth is - we as preachers of the Gospel - must address the evil around us. We must name the bad stuff and acknowledge that these acts are not God's will for our world. We have to be willing to speak the truth. We have to be willing to preach a Word of grace and love in the midst of violence.

We have to state clearly that God does not punish people with hurricanes and earthquakes. We have to be firm in our conviction that God does not want us to inflict harm on one another. We have to speak the truth that violence is not the way we are to live.

Sometimes there is serendipity in the chosen text for the day. Sometimes the text speaks a word we need to hear, as the lectionary did the week after September 11, 2001. Sometimes, though, the text for the day does not speak to the events happening around us. When this is the case, we need to consider changing the text of the day to find a word of grace more appropriate to the events and emotions to which we need to minister.

Speaking truth in these circumstances means acknowledging that God does not wish evil for us, but God is certainly present with us in the midst of evil - holding us, calling us, challenging us, and leading us out of the dark.

So let’s preach the Gospel of grace, love and hope to the people in our pews, folding chairs, park benches, couches, and everywhere else we encounter folks who need to hear the Word.

Preach it, people. Preach it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Taking a Leap of Faith

My family just moved into a new house. It is a faculty house belonging to my seminary where I teach and I am delighted to get to live there. The move went well - for about a day. Then I got sick and ended up in the hospital having two surgical procedures in two days.

Luckily, we had family coming to help with the move and they did more than could possibly be expected of family members during a move. They helped us clean, unpack boxes, and hang pictures. They helped us shop for new items for the house, carried out trash by the barrel, and helped us get organized. I am so grateful they were all here to help us out while I was sick and recovering from my surgery.

Today we were listing moves we made as a family. Since my birth I have lived in 21 different homes. That is 21 different moves. Some were just across town. Some were across country. Some were when I was too young to help. Some were with my own son who barely remembers the move. Some were painful and some were joyous.

Moving is never easy. Packing up and moving means saying goodbye to one reality and hello to a new one. Saying it 21 times means saying a lot of goodbyes to realities.

When I was a kid there were moves that made me angry. As an adult several of my moves were to grand new adventures - to college, to my first job, to attend seminary, to serve my first church, to grad school to get my PhD, to my first teaching job, and to Philly to teach at Lutheran. These were amazing new adventures.

But each and every one of them required a leap of faith. The moves required a sense of trust in the possibilities ahead. That trust is sometimes hard to come by. But trust must be lived out in the midst of change.

My prayer for this move and for the ways your life is changing is that trust comes to you. It takes small leaps of faith - trusting that God is present in the midst of the change, trusting that things will work themselves out, and trusting that you are not alone in the journey.

I'm leaping here, people. Wanna jump with me?