“To be a pastor these days is to navigate a treacherous terrain—you should be scared.” Thus Amy Butler, pastor of New York’s Riverside Church, warned us.
She told the story of how after Charleston that the Department of Homeland Security identified Riverside as a potential target and that they implemented a series of security measures there that are still in place.
Her lecture was about how we have to be addressing the many issues and events in the news. “If you aren’t talking about politics in the pulpit you have failed,” she said.
Part of her admonition was about process. You cannot use as an excuse that an event transpired at the last moment or after your sermon was written or planned. Your job is to craft a sermon on the broad themes of God’s message so that if something transpires at the last moment you can still connect it to your theme.
Here were her four reasons why you have to preach connected with current events:
- We preachers are theologians. We must think very hard about what theological constructs we are promoting with everything we say and do.
- People bring the weight of the world with them.
- It’s our job to help people turn a theological lens on their world.
- We are called to this.
Today’s lecture was my first time to hear Amy Butler in person, and she lived up to my expectations. She was very impressive.
Her parting line was a clarion call—“We cannot miss this moment.”
This line from Anthony Bailey’s sermon spoke to me, “tempt the world in the ways of God.”
During the morning break I was chatting with my festival friend Ken (we met last year and argued over the TPP) who was asking about the impact of the election on my congregation and me, since we live in Nebraska. As we talked he shared one of his revelations of this moment—that the empire has been exposed as having no clothes. He has told his congregation that they were not as outraged when Obama bombed children, that what they are reacting to now is the boorish way in which Trump operates. But Trump has exposed the evils of the empire through his boorishness and that just maybe this is a moment in which our people will finally take notice of the evils of the empire and react.
I had not heard this analysis before and will add it to my grasp of our current moment.