I’ve been looking ahead to texts that I will be preaching in the next few weeks. After recent news stories, I feel that many texts that I’m coming across makes me want to run in the opposite direction. “Too divisive!” I think to myself.
And some of these texts are as simple as “Love your enemies.” These are sentiments that have come out of the mouth of Jesus, and all I want to do is avoid them.
Some of you reading this will think to yourself “You aren’t doing enough to drive this issue! You must preach on this!” Some of you reading this will think to yourself “You’ve done too much. Back off this issue!”
Welcome to the purple church of the twenty-first century!
As I overanalyze my sermons, prayers, posts, conversations, etc., I ponder if I’m living into my calling by God. “Be strong and courageous” as God says to Joshua. But I feel less than confident preaching anything that relates to something that sounds remotely like we’ve all heard on the news. And then I remember what Karl Barth said:
Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.
Which makes me feel the need to address the following…
To some, the scripture may seem too political. And your pastor probably has had a good talk with God on why this is part of the lectionary for THIS. PARTICULAR. WEEK. Or maybe they have begged God not to call them to preach on a particular text. And God laughed and them and still called them to preach on the text. Unfortunately, some issues are too relatable – whether it happened during the time of Jesus or the Babylonian Exile or now. The whole situation may seem like they hand-picked all of this out and wanted to speak specifically on a subject. Yet sometimes the text leads the preacher to the subject, and there is no where else to go except preaching through and wrestling with the text.
Some of these texts appear to speak for themselves. Take care of the foreigner? What more should we need to say? The struggle is that we may see immigration laws differently. Yet, a text like this asks us to ponder “How are we treating our refugees while they are being detained?” Does separating children from parents and not allowing doctors to administer free flu shots to refugees in detention centers mean that we are properly caring for the foreigner?
You will probably feel like your pastor has gone too far one way from time to time. And they may have. But they’re trying to figure all of this out as well. They are trying to be as faithful to the scripture, to where God is calling them, and to create a loving world. They are trying to say what they believe God is calling them to say in ways that is not over the top. And there will be times in which they must speak out against an injustice which is creating hardship and oppression in the lives or well-beings of people. There were pastors who did this in 1930’s Germany and some who did not. Ultimately, your pastor must live with themselves, and not speaking out against oppression is not always an option. It may seem partisan and political, but for them, it’s Biblical.
Your pastor has personal views that they may express in other spaces. They are allowed to. They are expressing themselves because they want to see God’s kingdom here on earth. You never have to agree with them. Yes, they want you to treat your neighbors with love and dignity. But it doesn’t mean you will agree on how to make health care more affordable or reproductive health issues. This is where dialogue comes in…
Dialogue is crucial. If you are struggling with anything they said during a sermon, Bible study, or outside of church, have a conversation with them. Understand why they believe what they believe.
Your pastor’s job is not to avoid what is happening in the world and make all of this easy. It’s not easy. It’s a tough time. Part of the congregation feels extreme hope by the person occupying the White House. Part of the congregation feels extreme despair by the person occupying the White House. And part of the congregation doesn’t care or is trying to avoid this altogether.
For people at churches with more-unified perspectives – WONDERFUL! You have the opportunity to have the luxury of hearing what you want to hear in church and not worry about what your neighbor thinks. But for those of us in purple churches, we must work together, to be an example to our country on how to communicate with one another when we disagree.
Ultimately, we are all connected. We are still part of the Body of Christ. Republican and Democrat. Liberal, Moderate, and Conservative. We are connected. And we must remember this covenant, knowing that when heaven and earth have passed away, all of you will be part of God’s loving energy together.