On the preaching front, my summer seminarian is preaching his final sermon of the summer on Sunday. I expect it to be fantastic because he knows how to, "bring the Word" as it were. Nonetheless, today I am writing about last week's preaching experience. I worked hard on my sermon last week, which you can read here, and a big shout out to Krug Park for my editing experience last week. It greatly improved the quality of the sermon. However, when it came time to preach it, I just could not deliver it.
See, I woke up Sunday morning, like a lot of preachers, to the news that George Zimmerman had been acquitted. The parish I serve is the product of a merger of a white parish and black parish; so I didn't feel I could ignore this public event. I try not to let flashes of public attention sway my preaching too much. I think holding to the long view better insures I'm paying attention to what God wants me to preach. However, on that particular Sunday, with the question from the Good Samaritan Story of "Who is my neighbor?" hanging heavy in the air, and the beautiful people I humbly serve at the Church of the Resurrection, it would have been inappropriate and a failure of leadership not to speak to it.
So, I preached about it.
I found out about it Sunday morning, and I didn't have time to write anything; so, it was an extemporaneous morning. Now, I can preach extemporaneously. Sometimes that feels better for a particular sermon, and I have no fear of it. This time, however, there was the added challenge of not saying something stupid. On Sunday morning, there was an explosion of comments, sermons, articles, rants, and explicative outbursts on everything from Facebook to CNN and a lot of it was stupid. On all sides of the issue people were reacting not responding, and I didn't want to be yet another white dude adding to the stupidity out there.
So, what did I say? I don't remember everything, and to some degree I am very glad there isn't a record of it; however, I tried to stick to what I was most sure. I was and I remain certain that George Zimmerman did not think of Treyvon Martin as his neighbor. When Mr. Zimmerman got out of his vehicle that night he DID NOT think, "that's my neighbor". I don't know what exactly he was thinking but I know he wasn't thinking that. Jesus, challenges us to expand our concept of neighbor; so, I challenged congregation to answer Jesus' challenge. Furthermore, I reminded the congregation of what Martin Luther King Jr. preached about the Good Samaritan story: we are not only challenged to be the Good Samaritan but to reform the whole Jericho wilderness road so that anyone can walk it at any time of day and night.
I don't know if it was the right thing to say or not. I probably never will. But I know George Zimmerman did not think that Treyvon Martin was his neighbor. I know he should have. I know God loves us and challenges us to love each other as much as Jesus did. And, I know we have a lot of work to do.