Hello and happy (almost) Thanksgiving!
I know I went a little radio silent on here, but I decided not to post my post-election sermon last week. I wrestled with the decision for a couple of days. I preached a message that my congregation needed to hear and was ready to receive, but emotions were just running so high at that point that I didn’t want to create another virtual space that was open for an emotionally-charged political debate.
Ugh, truth? I think I was just scared. I know fear is a horrible place to lead from, but that’s where I was. One of my clergy friends shared with me last week that one of her parishioners commented that the pulpit seemed like a “lonely and vulnerable place” the Sunday after the election and, I have to say, it was.
So – that’s that. Here is this week’s sermon!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MANovember 20, 2016
May We All
For some reason this morning’s scripture reminded me of the song, “May We All,” by Florida Georgia Line featuring Tim McGraw. For those of you who do not share my enthusiasm for country music, the basic premise of the song is rooted in the hope the songwriter has that people will have the opportunity to experience the simple pleasures of life in a small town that he had. Each verse starts by saying, “May we all,” and those sentences are finished with snippets of the songwriter’s childhood.
Of course, most of the lyrics to the song are not at all relevant to what this letter is actually saying. “May we all get to grow up in our red white and blue little town, get a one star hand me down Ford to try to fix up” – these were not the things that the folks in Colossae were really concerned with.
That being said, the connection (or lack there of) between this song and scripture made me think about what was at the heart of the messages that both the songwriter of this song and the author of this letter were trying to convey. What were their hopes for their intended audiences?
Hit with an annoying case of writer’s block Friday afternoon, I did what I always do: I went for run. While I was running, I listened to this song on repeat, hoping it might help. And while the only thing it really did was get the song stuck in my head for the rest of the day, it did make me think about what I do, as a preacher. What is at the heart of the messages that I share with you all? What is my hope for you all?
The Letter to the Colossians was written during the late first century to a church in Asia Minor that was founded by a member of the Pauline mission. The church was struggling with other religious authorities trying to come in and sway the Colossians in their beliefs. This letter was written as a way to refute those other authorities and to focus the church back on the heart of the Gospel message.
This letter reminds the people reading that their strength and power come from one place, from God, who was enabling them to emerge from the darkness that the world often is filled with and be united as one body, the church. It is a prayer that they all will feel God’s power in their lives, not be tempted by other authorities and find reconciliation with God so that peace can prevail on earth.
I know that the challenges we face today are a little bit different than the ones this church was facing in the first century, but also I feel that the heart of the message – the hope the author had for this church – is still bold and powerfully true today.
Many of you know that social media has always fascinated me. As a church, we have an active Facebook page that we use to promote our programs and share our ministries. It has been vital in so many ways as it has grown over the past five years. But I know that, like anything, social media has its pros and cons. For example, I read an article the other day calling out Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook – for not doing enough to block “fake news” from being shared on Facebook during the election.
Here’s the issue: Anyone can publish anything on the Internet and people can take is as fact. The problem with this election was that news stories containing false information were being posted to Facebook and people were sharing and commenting as if they were fact. The concern was that by the time Election Day rolled around, people on all sides were misinformed and some people feel it is Facebook’s responsibility to do a better job of filtering out the “fake news.”
I am not sure I really have an opinion on this one way or the other, but, this article did get me thinking: Where do we turn to for our information, for our inspiration? Where does our authority come from? Or, perhaps the harder question is, where should we turn to for our information, for our inspiration? Where should our authority come from?
As a church, we do not have the same struggles that the Colossians did; we are not a new church facing religious authorities trying to sway us in another direction. But we do live in a culture that is becoming increasingly secular as the years go on. We live in a society filled with so much noise from different people and places and every day that it gets harder and harder to filter it. We live in a culture where God’s voice, scripture and Christian traditions are often quieted in favor of what is trendy and popular at the moment.
Back in the spring, I preached a sermon about how I thought we all needed to spend more time reading the bible and less time in the noise of the world. I called myself to task because I knew I was just as guilty as anyone else of mindlessly reading whatever I happened to find on the Internet that day. I pledged that day to do better.
And I did.
I was actually doing really well when I was in Hungary and I had turned off the data on my phone.
But I have to admit, lately I find myself falling back into some of those habits. And the more I get sucked into the chaos of what exists in the Internet, the media and the culture we live in, the easier it is for me to forget the Goods News that is God’s love.
And it is good news.
I think this message to the Colossians is important, now more than ever. We need to remember that our authority should come from God. We need to keep God at the center of our lives, our relationships our conversations. We need to go back to Jesus’ life and model our choices around the teachings in the Gospel.
It is an honor and a privilege to wake up every morning and do this job. To walk with people during the most heartbreaking and joy-filled moments of their lives is to see grace, to shine light and to know that God’s love is real.
And I think that starts to get at the heart of what I want to share with you all, week after week. That is my hope for you all. I pray that you will all bear witness to this grace, light and love in your lives, that you will have the strength to quiet the noise of the world and listen to God’s voice speaking to you. I pray that you will know that you are blessed and loved child of God, created, redeemed and sustained in God’s image.
So may we all: May we all be made strong by the radical and life-changing message of the Gospel. May we all feel God’s strength and guidance we face each day. May we all find grace, shine light and show love. May we all look to God for authority in our lives, knowing that God’s work is ever-present and ever powerful in our lives. May we all be united as one Body, one Church.
Thanks be to God!