Thoughts Between Sundays

Some of what crosses my mind between Sundays

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Addressing Current Events in the Sermon

I have been part of the RevGalBlogPals community, in one form or another, since I began seeking my first call.  Has it been almost 5 years now?  Wow!  Yesterday, there was a discussion on their blog about approaching breaking news and current events in the weekly sermon, with the question of when do you and don’t you change the sermon for Sunday based on what is happening in the world, or your own church community.  The question was asked in light of the shooting in Arizona this weekend, but it is not the first time is has been asked by clergy.  I’ve logged in several times to comment and can’t quite gather my thoughts succinctly enough for a short comment, so I’m writing it here.

First, for those of you who may not know this about me, I used to be the chronic Saturday night sermon writer.  As a solo pastor, it was just the way the rhythm of the week went.  It was a good week if I was finished before midnight.  Sometimes this was good when there was major news during the week.  As I thought about the text during the week, there was more time and headspace to hear what the Holy Spirit may be saying about any given event.  The shootings at Virginia Tech, natural disasters, political events – they all found their ways into the word I preached and it fit and worked.  Mostly because I was not re-writing a sermon, but writing a sermon.  Even if the sermon was done early and I changed it, the only person impacted (preparation-wise) by the change was me.  It was easier to adapt and change.

My process is different now.  I am no longer preaching every week (I have a new call as an Associate Pastor), and given the requirements of our middle service, need to have the sermon finished mid-week so that the visuals that accompany it can also be prepared.  Changing the sermon dramatically does not just affect me, but an entire team of people.  Not to say that I would not, but it makes me pause and think, rather than react, which is what I may have done before.  On Saturday afternoon, when I was on Facebook, reading status updates from friends about rewriting sermons and changing what they preached I began to feel a knot in my stomach.  Was I being called to re-think the word I believed God had given me to preach to our congregation for Saturday?  I watched some CNN and got some details.  I re-read the scripture.  I prayed about it.  God was really quiet, which was really annoying.  I made dinner.  And while I was chopping vegetables, asking God to give me something to say, it came to me – God had not given me any words to say about this specific event for the sermon on Sunday.  God had given words to other preachers in other contexts, but that was not the word God had for our congregation on this day.  My response to this specific tragedy was to lift up prayers during the pastoral prayers.

To answer the question of when and how to address current events in the sermon, I think, for me, it comes down to how I approach most of my sermon writing process:  listening for the Word God has for the people of God.  We live in the world, and read both the Bible and the newspaper, as Barth calls us to do; however we must remember what else he said about that – to interpret our newspapers through our Bibles.  What is God saying to us this day about this text, is my starting place.  I rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me from there.




Thoughts for Sunday: Practice Resurrection

The Text for Sunday is Acts 9:36-43:  Peter raises Dorcas (Tabitha) from the dead.

I am wondering about where we see resurrection in our own lives.  Where do we see miracles, where do we see the work of God in a post-Easter season differently than we do before Easter?  How is our world different when we proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ?  How do we practice resurrection?

I’m seriously asking you  -comment here or on Facebook — what do you see in this text?  What miracles do we overlook?

And in the category of things that may not make it to the pulpit, I share this poem with you — one of my favorites:

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.