Sunday, November 09, 2014

not repeating myself

Often when I am pondering what to say in this week's sermon, I go to check my files to see if I've preached a text before. Now that we're using the Narrative Lectionary, the chances are good that I have not. But sometimes a text comes up that is also in the Revised Common Lectionary, and sometimes it's one I've preached on before. I like to know what I said last time, to make sure I'm not just preaching the same thing over again. Unless it was brilliant, in which case I want to make sure I preach it exactly the same over again. ;-)

This week I had Micah 5-6, including that famous part "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God." I couldn't remember preaching it before, but I checked the files just in case.

There is one sermon labeled "Micah 6" in my file. It is from the first Sunday in February, 2011.

It was the first Sunday I was preaching after the revolution began in Egypt.

The first line of the sermon says "I wasn't all that interested in writing a sermon this week, so I didn't."

Instead, it was a collection of stories and pictures of people I knew and loved in Egypt, people I was worried about, people I was praying for as I obsessively watched the al-Jazeera live coverage online.

I made a half-hearted attempt to tie things together with the scripture, but the reality is that most of my heart was elsewhere that week.

Needless to say, I didn't borrow from that sermon for today's.

But it did call up fresh mental images of those people. So many have emigrated or fled. My former students are in university in Europe, or pastoring in Australia and Canada. My fellow teachers who could afford it are here in the USA. Few who have choices have chosen to stay, and those without choice (aka without financial means) are just trying to get by without being too noticeable. The hope of the Arab Spring has turned to disappointment for many.

And there I think there is actually a connection to Micah. What does it mean for a people called to DO justice that we have ignored/enabled/profited from the suffering of others? What does it mean to love kindness even as Christians are leaving their ancient homes in droves, while we barely know they were there in the first place? What does it mean to walk humbly with God if we are not walking beside those who live in fear, or serious economic deprivation, or without access to clean water, enough food, or an education?

This photo went around a lot during the revolution. It still speaks to who we are called to be...but neither Egypt nor we have lived up to the promise of this picture. Maybe we can do better soon.

Christians protect Muslims at prayer in downtown Cairo, January 2011

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