The United Methodist Church
Virginia Conference

From the District Office

Shouting at the Sky

On September 11, 2001, I was serving as the associate pastor of my first pastoral appointment. Tracy was pregnant with our first child Ellen, but we were not telling people yet. The day before, on September 10, our church's beloved lay leader J.T. Johnson had died suddenly. I had already been scheduled to preach, and the Rev. Larry Adams, our senior pastor, graciously allowed me to preach. What follows is what I said that Sunday.

16 September 2001   Luke 23:13-34    We have all lived through one of those days where we will always remember where we were and what we were doing. We will always remember how old we were and to whom we were talking and what we were going to do when we heard the news. We will live the remainder of our days remembering how when we heard the news we quickly scanned our mental Rolodexes, trying to remember which loved ones were where. Did anyone have a reason to fly today? Was anyone in Manhattan or in northern Virginia? Maybe I should call, just to be sure.

We have lived through a day that in an instant drastically changed the world in which we live, in which our children, born and unborn will live. In an instant, we have found ourselves living in a new nation; one different in many ways from the nation in which lived less than a week ago. 

Everything has been reexamined this week by every one of us. Our faith in God, our faith in those around us and around the world, our love for our loved ones, our feelings about the future. This has been a week of taking stock, counting blessings, coming to terms, and feeling a wide variety of feelings that seemed to change each moment: fear, anger, shock, sadness, and rage. 

Before I go any further, let me make a couple of things clear. First, the role in which the preacher often finds himself or herself in a service of worship is the role of prophet, that is, one who speaks for God. It is a daunting role and one not to be taken lightly. In the role of preaching, one must, guided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit, proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, and point one's listeners toward the Kingdom of God. That is what I will try to do this morning. 

Some of what I have to say may be of comfort to you. Some of what I say may be hard to hear. It was hard to write and it will be hard to preach. However, it is not my vocation to stand before you and say what I am feeling right now in my own heart or to simply acknowledge what is in yours. It is, instead, to talk about what God has to say about all this, and to point us all towards a future that belongs to God so that we can all begin the process of moving in the direction of God's will and God's Kingdom. We may not be there yet, but we are to be moving in a Christ's direction. In this regard, I am preaching to myself as much as I am to all of you....

Click HERE for the complete sermon. 

Posted: 15 September, 2021