Preface: This is a sermon I delivered at Echo Church on July 10, 2016 (you can listen to it here). I’m publishing my manuscript here as it could prove useful to Christians investigating this subject. I never intend my sermon notes for publication, so there is no citation of the research provided here. All of the factual claims here are the result of research and, to the best of my knowledge, all of this material can be easily cited; I haven’t yet taken the time to provide it here.
I always self-denigrate and tell people that preaching isn’t all too difficult. Indeed, my recent sabbatical from Echo proved it; in our small church, we have some fine communicators—people very capable of taking a text, interpreting it, and making it real to a Christian in the modern world.
That said, there are times when my tongue-in-cheek “anyone can do this,” is proven to be an exaggeration. This sermon is one of those times. Preaching this morning is an extremely difficult task. Like you, my heart broke this past week for my sisters and brothers in the African American community when we were faced with yet another tragedy—the killing of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, by the guns from police officers in the south and north of our country. And before we even had ample time to wipe our tears, a shooter, a black veteran, motivated by hatred from these two events, opened fire at a peaceful protest in Dallas, targeting law enforcement and killing five police officers in cold blood.
These are the moments when crafting a biblical message is most difficult. And yet, it doesn’t need to be. I could easily avoid it.
You see, I could speak about almost anything today and still get through this message unscathed. There are sixty-six books of the Bible to choose from and an endless number of messages I could deliver this morning.
For example, we sent out a call to show up early this morning so we could pray together (and I’m thankful for those that responded). In that vein, I could just preach a sermon moving us to pray for those families and communities affected. Or I could pan out, give a macro view of the spiritual conflict that lies underneath the surface of this violence—that ours is a fallen world in desperate need of a Savior. Still, I could make a case from Scripture that we are all made in the image of God, that all are precious in his sight, and that violence against each other is a deviation of the Lord’s will for humanity. Even though I could preach any of these things and be justified in doing so, it would be the easy way out, avoiding a challenging subject.
There is a statement that’s been linked to biblical preaching that I believe summarizes my preaching since starting Echo and compels me to do more this morning. It’s the adage: Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comforted. Ironically, the phrase was coined by Finley Peter Dunne in 1902 in reference to the newspaper industry, but it’s been co-opted as a spiritual challenge that, I believe, is apt in times like this.
One of the advantages I have as an elder of Echo Church is that we are thoughtful congregation. As such, even when I preach a sermon that is “edgy,” and I present concepts with which you do not agree, you contemplate the challenge. So this morning, as I attempt to do right by the Spirit of God and the Word of God, I ask your patience as I preach what I’m called to do in this moment. I take my calling seriously and I know that I need to be a voice to say some difficult things.
I do, however, want to use the text we selected months ago to serve as the biblical foundation of this conversation. Our study of the book of First and Second Kings is helpful as the books hold relevance to our experiences. It details the struggle of a people to serve the Lord and their leaders failures. And the string throughout these books, and a lesson for us to observe, is that the faults of leadership (whether political or spiritual) do not absolve the masses of their faults. Yes, there’s enough sin to go around.