This Sunday, August 17

Preach the front pages.
Preach the news. Preach the fire. Preach the rage, the sadness, the lamentation. Preach it fierce. Bring your rage, your solidarity, your authority to confront: to confront ourselves, to confront our God, to confront yourself, to confront our sick, sick society. Confront what is really happening. Do not “spiritualize.” Do not offer bromides, cliches, or a load of Christian crap that everyone has heard before and that you yourself have heard too many times coming out of your own mouth because it feels easier to say that crap than to cover yourself in sackcloth and ashes and wail that you have no idea what God is doing, but that you only hope God is working in this, is in the suffering, is loving us still, will not abandon and forsake us.

Who am I to tell you what to preach? I am only your friend, only a lady who advises you not to wear silly round-toed girl shoes when you should be standing strong in grown-up shoes on grown-up feet, for God’s sake.

Anyone who dares to preach this Sunday wearing silly little sandals or with baby bird sticking-up bedhead, don’t you DARE. PEACEBANG WILL FIND YOU.

You pray this time, you pray this horror, you acquaint yourself with the news, you put on your protective headgear and you get out there and you put aside the sermon you were going to give on puppies and love and butterflies and you get in there with humanity and witness to it. Any minister who doesn’t address the pain and suffering in America right now from their pulpit this Sunday deserves all the disappointment — spoken or unspoken — that will come at them in passive-aggressive or straight up aggressive ways in months to come. It is our job to be alive, awake, attentive, thoughtful, connected and in relationship to the real world right now this moment as it is. And I’m sorry, but no matter what’s going on in your individual community or congregation this week, it can’t possibly be as spiritually enormous as the conflagration that’s burning outside all our windows. COME TO THE WINDOW. See. Witness. Pray for the Holy Spirit to assist us in saying what we are able about that fire.

Do not preach a clinical sermon about what depression is. Please don’t do that. I can get a pamphlet myself or find that online. Preach the soul! Preach the agony! Remember that people do not “commit” suicide. It is not a crime. They DIE of suicide. You’re not a doctor, you don’t have to understand depression as a clinician. Nor is this the time to give a sermon entirely about yourself and your depression, God no: don’t you bleed all over your community. Save that for your therapist.

Have you reached out to the police officers in your community? I haven’t, but I plan to. Ya think they need pastoral care right now? As it becomes unavoidably obvious to Americans (even those who have been in denial or ignorance about the fact) that African-American communities live in a constant police state, the pain is going to spread from Ferguson to your community. As it should. Those who aren’t in pain right now are numb. Bring them along. Help them connect.

Darlings, if you’re offended by my ranting, I understand. Who am I to say all this? I am just a woman who is also a minister who is also a disappointed church-goer of many years – a woman who wandered from state to state in her young adulthood, moving around, trying to find a spiritual community that wasn’t either only political or way too pastoral. I attended church Sunday after Sunday after Sunday wondering why those people in the pulpit were so boring, so frumpy, so nice, and so absolutely dead to the real world I lived in and struggled with.

By all means, be a nice person (blech, I hate that word. See Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” for my favorite lyric of his: “You’re so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice. I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just RIGHT. I’m the Witch! You’re the world.”). But this Sunday, don’t you dare be nice. Don’t you be tepid. Don’t you put out a puff pasty Jesus-loves-us conclusion — not unless you’re saying it with your head up and your voice loud and your fist on the pulpit.

You make sure you are impeccable. You make sure you look like strong and capable and impressive enough to fly a helicopter of terrified people off a mountain where they have been in fear for their lives and their children’s lives and starving and thirsting for a week. Do you see that it is you who has to fly that mission on Sunday morning?

And please forgive my ranting. I just didn’t know where else to put this if not to give it to you.

24 Replies to “This Sunday, August 17”

  1. Thank you. I needed to hear this today. My sermon will be much better because I have. [Your gracious response to my hammering brings tears of gratitude to my eyes. – PB]

  2. Amen. No idea how this is going to connect up (it’s Water Communion this Sunday) but I have ’til Sunday to figure it out.

  3. What she said. Doing a service tonight about Ferguson for the community required my biggest big girl panties, but it was worthwhile. So appreciated by people. And don’t do it alone! Talk to your friends! When you become a deer in headlights they will say things that make you go, “Doh!” And you will think of all of them when you’re quaking in your boots. Also pray your buns off.

  4. You’ve totally changed my sermon. I was so chicken…had my blankets over my head, not wanting to even touch all the stuff this week.

    But you are SO right. And I will put on my best outfit and high heels and PREACH IT.

  5. Thank you for permission & affirmation, encouragement and the kick in the arse needed this week not to preach about the Canaanite Woman but to EMBODY her pleas!

  6. Lovely strong women each and all, thank you. These words were the best sermons! Saw this on a UCC website Friday morning: “Was the worship alive or did it feel like [everyone] had stumbled into a funeral for someone they didn’t know?” None of your sermons will feel that way. Blessings.

  7. Brand new pastor in St. Louis here. Scared. To. Death. And ready to PREACH – with power and with love!

    Thank you.

    [We are with you, Reverend Sister. Call if you get over-the-top freaked out. Let me know and I’ll msg you with my number. xoxo – PB]

  8. I would also like to support Rev. Larissa. I’m in Kirkwood, Larissa! Eliot Unitarian Chapel. Look me up if you want a friendly face or cuppa.

  9. Yup. I needed this. You made my sermon better. Thank you for the push.
    (And Larissa, if you read this, I’m also a brand new pastor in STL. And I’m also scared. It’s easier when we do it together. Let me know if you need a pal.)

  10. Thank you for your words. This week I will begin a new call in Clayton, MO (preaching the 17th as my first day); my family and I just moved to Florissant and live about 3-4 miles from the epicenter of events in Ferguson. I continue to pray for my new neighbors, as well as the Holy Spirit and the words for the flock I will being to serve this next week.

  11. Yes, do! Preach, I mean. After about 20 years of going to church, I honestly know about ‘love they neighbour’ and really don’t need another vague and fluffy chat about it.

    The best sermon I’ve heard for years was recently at the cathedral in Belfast. A guy in formal robes with a long white beard passionately explained the futility of war and the Biblical imperative towards peace. As the UK focusses on the anniversary of the start of World War I with lots of glorification of soldiers, this was a brave thing to do. He also brought in the conflict between Isreal and Palestine and dared to have an opinion! He was erudite, well-reasoned but also clearly personally invested in what he was saying. Great stuff!

  12. Thank you so much, this dramatically changed my sermon. It will be more challenging and take more energy, but people will hopefully be much more likely to hear what God needs them to hear this week. Thank you again!

  13. Thank you so much for the support! I can feel the prayers and join mine with yours. Erin, Rev. Gidget, and Jennifer, we should get together. There is power when we join in supportive community. In case you don’t yet know, the website prayingwithourfeet.org has some of what the local clergy are doing together to respond and to, well, pray with our feet.

    Peace,
    Larissa

  14. Larissa & Jennifer, as you probably suspected, my name is not Gidget. (It’s a silly blogosphere nickname I sometimes use. It’s Barbara Gadon. I’m at Eliot Chapel in Kirkwood. Let’s find each other.

  15. St Louis pastors- I’m at Oak Hill Presbyterian on the south side of the city. I’d love to get together. Praying for y’all, and all preachers, tomorrow. BRING IT!

  16. Brilliant. Brava. AMEN! (On vacation … back up to sermon-bat August 31 … grateful for this!)

  17. Thank you for the post and the conversation in the comments! Yet another STL area clergy , here (Manchester.) As a children’s minister I will not be preaching, but am navigating Bible Sunday along with all that is happening. Prayers for all this morning as we preach and lead in worship.

  18. As usual, I am a little late getting into this thread, but kudos to all of you from a lay person who happens to be the father and father-in-law of two Episcopal priests, and who is searching for a way to engage. The bit about African-Americans living in a constant police state particularly resonates with this criminal defense lawyer, no, not a Johnny Cochran type, just one who works in the trenches every day on every day type cases. I am alarmed by the militarization of police everywhere in this country and especially by what I perceive as an inept military response by a police department which seems to have forgotten that these are OUR people, not “the enemy.” Especially for you in the St. Louis area, know that prayers are ascending for you and the challenges that all of you are facing in trying to make some sense of a senseless situation.

  19. It’s Monday morning now, and I hope you all are (a) taking a day off, and (b) glad for whatever you did yesterday in your pulpits. I’m thrilled to see how this blog is bringing people in the St. Louis area together in real life, real time. You folks who are about to meet (or have recently met) Rev. Gidget, you will be so glad!!! She is a friend and a wonderful person, as I’m sure the rest of you are, too. Blessings on you all, and thank you for your ministries.

  20. Alright, all you St. Louis area-types:

    Installation is set for Sunday, September 21st, 4:00pm
    St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church
    6337 Clayton Road
    St. Louis 63117

    (across from the Cheshire Inn)

    All are welcome and to vest.

    Will be sending out official invites in the mail, so send me your contact information to the email above or to: pastor@stmarkselca.com

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