September 1, 2019

Not Again. What Do I Say This Time?
Labor Day
Pentecost 12,
Year C
Becky Robbins-Penniman

I had a great preaching teacher in seminary, Dr. Paul Harms. Dr. Harms said that none of our parishioners was at all interested in the process that we used in coming up with our sermons. I am quite sure he was right, but this week, Oy. You get to hear it.

Monday morning, I read all the lessons, ones I had chosen to focus on Labor Day. I jotted down the outline of a homily, pleased I had a good jump on the week. On Monday afternoon, my cell phone, basically an extension of my arm, suddenly stopped working. Just. Stopped. Tuesday, I took it to the repair shop and was told they would have a diagnosis of the problem in 24-48 hours. 24-48 hours without a phone? Seriously? I felt disoriented. We don’t even have a land line at home any more! Indeed, for the next 3 days, if I wanted to call someone, I had to hike over here to my office at the church. So annoying. But my First World Problem inspired another round of sermon thoughts focusing on both Labor Day and my forced hiatus from my phone. Later Wednesday, though, all eyes became focused on Hurricane Dorian. Thursday morning the staff and I all went into preliminary Emergency Plan mode. Would we even have a church service Sunday? And how was I going to manage caring for Good Shepherd during a hurricane without a cell phone? Aaargh!

Late Thursday afternoon, the shop called Gus to say my phone was a brick; it would cost more to repair than the phone was worth. So off I scurried in rush hour traffic on US 19 to get a new phone. In the store are TV monitors with ever-more-dire hurricane updates. First thing Friday morning, with a new phone extending from my arm, I slipped into a Publix for water and kale. You get what you need to get through a storm, I’ll get what I need. Meanwhile, there were reports of offices and meetings being cancelled, schools closing next week, and the typical media-generated panic. I’ve lived in Florida for 20 years, and the panic pattern is pretty predictable.

Even so, I’d stopped thinking much about preaching, sure I’d be telling all y’all to stay home and stay safe on Sunday. Then I watched in wonder Friday as the expected path of the storm began to shift east. Maybe I’d be preaching after all; I had a great start already, though I was going to add the reminder that when a hurricane’s path changes and now it’s steering away from us, it means we’re lucky, not blessed. God loves the people of the Bahamas every bit as much as God loves the people of Florida.

With all that in mind, on Saturday in the early afternoon I wrote my third draft, happy I was done well ahead of time. I saved it as final, then went to a meeting and on to Celtic Kirk. Just like Dorian, the path of my sermon was to change dramatically. In fact, I don’t know why I bother writing sermons ahead of time. It seems like every other Saturday afternoon, there’s yet another shooting, yet another young white man taking others’ lives into his hands.
Not again! What am I going to say this time? …

For the full sermon text, click HERE.