I hate writing my sermon on Saturday, but that's what I'll end up doing this week.
I do my best to avoid this predicament. In fact, my routine usually sees the notes finished on Wednesday or Thursday, and then I can spend the rest of the week thinking about the moment itself: how to flesh out a particular point more, or the tweaking of words or phrases so as not to be misunderstood.
This week has been a shorter week. Due to officiating a funeral over my paternity leave, I came in on Wednesday rather than Tuesday. And ever since then, I've been wrestling with what to say on Sunday.
It's not for lack of material. This week I've become increasingly aware that Jeremiah Wright is on the collective mind of my congregation. Questions of how it all relates to us, or how someone like him is a part of our denomination, or whether there are different "branches" of our denomination have been put to me recently. Wright has been on my mind besides, because I've still been trying to figure out what parts of his message and ministry I support and what parts I reject. And with all this in mind, I've been trying to figure out whether addressing any of this in a sermon is a good idea.
The original plan for this Sunday was to do just that. Following the lectionary, I was going to use Jesus' prayer in John 17 "that they may be one" to talk about UCC polity, what it means to be united without being uniform, disagreeing with Wright without leaving the table, and so on. I wondered whether giving Wright this much time in the pulpit was a worthwhile thing, a needed thing. My main angle was to explain our polity in order to answer some of those questions above. I intended it to not even really be a discussion of Wright, but a discussion of how we do things in the UCC.
So I began my outline just yesterday. I talked out loud to an empty sanctuary. I began thinking about words and phrasing so as not to be misunderstood. And I still worried and wondered, and still worry and wonder, whether this is a worthwhile thing, a needed thing.
And then late last night and early this morning, Coffeewife and I sat up with Coffeeson, trading our wide-awake child back and forth. His refusal to go to sleep confounded us both: was he hungry? gassy? frustrated? bored? The minutes ticked away with seemingly no end in sight. It gave me plenty of time to consider what a sermon on John 17 in this cultural moment should contain.
Eventually, however, something else happened.
My sleep-deprived self started not to give a damn.
I suddenly didn't care who won the election, and I didn't care what anyone anywhere thought of Jeremiah Wright, and I didn't care what I would say on Sunday. I didn't care because it was freaking 1:00 in the morning and I had other concerns at the moment, and I didn't care because I'd thought about all of it for so long that I was just fed up with thinking about it.
It was at that moment that I remembered what I originally planned on preaching about from 1 Peter: "cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you." People are anxious about Wright and people are anxious about our election, but they're also anxious about babies who won't go to sleep and whether they're good parents for not knowing how to deal with it. People are anxious about a lot of things, like what to say in a sermon or what they might hear from their pastor on a given Sunday.
I don't know whether it'd be more or less responsible to say something about that instead, or whether people really need to be better educated about how a guy like Wright is part of a church like ours.
I don't know. It makes me anxious.
Still, I'd better come up with something pretty soon.