On December 14, 2012, twenty children and six adults were murdered by a young man who then took his own life. At first, all I could think of was the bad theology and preaching I’d heard too many times by well-meaning clergy after such tragedies. (I'm not considering the intentionally misanthropic theology spewed by those of ill will such as the Westboro Baptist Church, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson.)
I started writing a blog post titled, A Word to Preachers but couldn't finish. Wracked with grief and stunned into silence, I kept thinking about those murdered children lying in their own blood as police and medical examiners did their work for as many hours as it took.
After a while, I took the few coherent sentences I’d managed to write and posted them on Twitter and Facebook. Of course the shorter ones got tweeted:
- Don’t you dare blame God or claim this was God’s will. God did not want those babies (or adults) in heaven today, this way.
- If your theology is inadequate to make sense of human evil, the love and sovereignty of God say so.
- Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know what to say when you don’t know what to say. Sit down if you need to. Weep. Let the musicians minister – without words when no words can be found.
- Stand in integrity. Be honest. Acknowledge your pain.
- If you’re a lectionary preacher admit the “rejoicing” in the texts doesn’t fit. We’re in too much pain to rejoice.
- If you observe Rose Sunday perhaps the concern of a mother, the Virgin, for her Child is a starting place.
- For me, Job is a resource. Cry to heaven, scream at God, even curse God.
- This is an Immanuel moment. God is with us. This is a sure promise. God was with the dying. God is with the grieving.
A clergy colleague in one blogging community RevGalBlogPals to which I belong, the Rev. Martha Spong asked me to help articulate what we should be preaching.
After consulting with the RevGals and two other online communities, WomanPreach! and Move And Shake (a private Facebook group for women in the academy), I came up with #What2Preach and then facilitated a conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and the RevGal Preacher Party.
I left that tweetchat encouraged by ministers I met there and grateful for the opportunity to use my gifts as a priest, preacher and seminary professor to respond in a meaningful way. View the conversation by searching #What2Preach.