Often, while sermon-writing, words come slowly, and when they come, they seem like little clods of dirt that break apart into dust the moment you try to grasp them. This exercise sends me running through my cycle of google reader-facebook-twitter. Having just completed the circuit a few minutes before, there was nothing new on my reader, but when i typed in “fac” in my browser bar (the fewest letters necessary to bring up my worn “facebook.com” link) and arrived at the top of my newsfeed, a new photo had been posted by one of my oldest friends:
She wore a white sundress, her blonde hair was down, and the big white posterboard she held up read, “Shh… just go back to sleep.” It was a photo taken for Project Unbreakable, a website dedicated to survivors of sexual assault. I’d known about the event she referred to for a few months, but seeing her brave face meeting the camera’s eye humbled me–what good were my fancy sermonizing words to her?
I’d asked that question of myself before, thinking of a friend of mine who is a veteran of Afghanistan. With all that he’s seen and survived, what can a sheltered, charmed, suburban Midwesterner say that has any weight?
Of course, the answer is that the Gospel is the most powerful thing we can describe to anyone, but the rub is describing it faithfully and articulately, both with our words and with our lives. These friends of mine make me a better preacher, because I know that sitting in the pews each Sunday are others who have been abused, assaulted, witnessed and survived war, and continue to fight for their lives; keeping them in mind as I search for language keeps me honest and humble (and makes me pray more often).