Often on a Sunday afternoon, after I’ve changed out of my church clothes and into jeans and a sweatshirt, after I’ve had a wee nap in the comfy chair, after I’ve unwound from All Things Sunday Morning, a creeping doubt comes into my head: what difference does a sermon make? I’m not fishing for compliments here. I’m pretty realistic about my sermons and I, like everyone else, am an above-average preacher. About ten years ago I let go of worrying that every sermon I preached had to be wonderful and inspiring.
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Earlier this week I e-mailed my parents an article from NPR that caught my attention: "It's Never Too Soon To Plan Your 'Driving Retirement.'" Using the story of a 94-year-old woman who decided to give up driving on her 90th birthday, the article explores this one particular challenge of getting older. In sending it to my parents (who are in their mid-sixties), I was mostly joking. Still, though, there's a little bit of interest—though not at all concern yet—behind my sharing that article with them. All things come to an end.
We want to raise social justice warriors—kids who champion equality and care for the vulnerable, and who subvert the power systems in our world by embodying the prophetic ways of Jesus. We want to activate their imagination, and to hope they'll do better than we did. Whether we admit it or not, we want our children to reflect the values close to our hearts. I know it’s tricky business imposing our own dreams on little autonomous human beings, but if I’m honest, I want my deepest convictions to become theirs. I want to partner with them in paving the ways of peace and righteousness.
The two preachers at my house have a disagreement in principle about church attendance. Oh, we’re both for it under ordinary circumstances! We grew up in families where everybody went to church. We loved Sunday school and youth group and special choirs. Really, seriously, most of the time we are eager to get up and go on a Sunday morning, to lead worship in our respective congregations. But on vacation?
We are bargain hunters, all of us. We make bargains with God, with reality or the cosmos or karma or whatever. We are convinced someone or something out there is keeping score, and that our lives are like a bet we are daily making that the things we do are somehow a reliable indicator of the things we will get.
What do I believe? I oftentimes forget what I believe, until I stop to ask. People may assume I have my beliefs all figured out, given my profession as clergy.
There’s a popular misconception when it comes to advice we give and crave during difficult times:“You’ll get through this. You can do it!” “If I can survive this. . . . I can do anything.” In life’s hard places, we rally ourselves around images of strength and courage.
What does it mean to observe All Souls Day in the year of #BlackLivesMatter? What does it mean to commemorate the dead in a year in which 957 were shot and killed by police?