Preaching in the Midst of Evil

Preach the Gospel

This past weekend, we experienced yet another mass shooting of innocents. We saw the pictures on TV of the theater in Aurora, CO and were once again dismayed and bewildered by the horror we inflict upon each other in this world.

One man - a mentally ill person, a modern day terrorist, a bad man, or just a mixed up guy - used the guns he had acquired to rain terror on a group of innocents at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. It was evil and violent. It was tragic and horrific.

So what happened on Sunday in worship services around the country?

Some preachers discussed the shooting only in their prayer time, some had a moment of silence for the families involved, some addressed it fully in their sermons, and some avoided it because they did not know how to address the evil from the pulpit.

The truth is - we as preachers of the Gospel - must address the evil around us. We must name the bad stuff and acknowledge that these acts are not God's will for our world. We have to be willing to speak the truth. We have to be willing to preach a Word of grace and love in the midst of violence.

We have to state clearly that God does not punish people with hurricanes and earthquakes. We have to be firm in our conviction that God does not want us to inflict harm on one another. We have to speak the truth that violence is not the way we are to live.

Sometimes there is serendipity in the chosen text for the day. Sometimes the text speaks a word we need to hear, as the lectionary did the week after September 11, 2001. Sometimes, though, the text for the day does not speak to the events happening around us. When this is the case, we need to consider changing the text of the day to find a word of grace more appropriate to the events and emotions to which we need to minister.

Speaking truth in these circumstances means acknowledging that God does not wish evil for us, but God is certainly present with us in the midst of evil - holding us, calling us, challenging us, and leading us out of the dark.

So let’s preach the Gospel of grace, love and hope to the people in our pews, folding chairs, park benches, couches, and everywhere else we encounter folks who need to hear the Word.

Preach it, people. Preach it.