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.