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How to preach in a political age

How to preach in a political age

Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans, an Episcopal priest and freelance columnist, writes for LancasterOnline that “sticking to scripture” is the recipe many preachers have found for keeping congregants and influencing people in a divided political age.

“I have had some of our clergy talk with me about how to approach the task of preaching in these times when we find some of our congregations divided across political lines. My advice has been to remind them that the most important thing for any preacher is to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel,” Audrey Scanlan, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, wrote in an email message.

“Jesus’ message to us of justice, peace and mercy is timeless, and our call as Christians is to follow Jesus, carrying his truth into the world in word and action. That has been the case for more than 2,000 years and has not changed, regardless of who is in political office.”

Some preachers hear this mandate differently than others.

The Rev. Craig Ross, pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manheim Township, said he’s not doing anything “dramatically different” than before. “We try to shape a culture away from politics.” he said. “We can still be the people of God together.”

Riffing on a verse in the New Testament book of Revelation, Ross added: “I’m the lukewarm guy getting spit out of God’s mouth. I’m always in the middle.”

But not everyone tries to steer a straight line down the center.

Roman Catholic priest Jim McDermott, who pondered the delicate balance of respecting the demands of the Gospel message, which draw clergy outward, and the pastoral needs of an already divided flock.

Surveying a landscape that was already rent by partisan conflict this past February, he wrote this in a commentary for the Catholic media outlet America: “If parish priests and other Catholics in the United States cannot stand up in this important moment for the very people Jesus stood with — the marginalized and needy that Pope Francis keeps calling our attention to; the meek, the mourning, the poor in spirit and the hungry for righteousness described as ‘blessed’ by Jesus in the Gospel reading the Sunday after the Trump administration’s travel ban was announced — we might as well pack up our Mass kits, turn out the church lights and permanently relocate to the beach.”

Read more of the article here. How do you hope to hear gospel truths and political realities addressed from the pulpit?


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Rev. David Justin Lynch

I am an Old Catholic priest whose ministry is dedicated to building up the Kingdom of God in this world. I have no desire to become a bishop, vicar, canon, or any other ecclesiastical advancement. Popularity is of no consequence to me. I just want to be a good parish priest. For me, that includes proclaiming the Gospel without fear or favor. It means calling out evil, particularly when it wreaks havoc on the least among us, the people from which Jesus came and on whom God’s favor rests. Our mission is the same as Jesus: to “proclaim the good news to the poor, to proclaim release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free.” The Church is NOT called to be a pillar of the establishment and to affirm the social order in which it operates when that establishment does not respect the dignity of the human person and continues to desecrate God’s creation. All of this is controversial in a capitalist country that has produced a wide gulf of inequality between the one percent and the ninety-nine percent. In preaching, I focus on the Lectionary (I use the Roman one, with occasional variations) with emphasis on the Gospel. Yes, I do bring current events into the pulpit, when relevant. But I am not there to support or oppose the continuance of any political regime or country. My loyalty is to Jesus. Hence, I focus on issues and policies and how they related to the Gospel and how they affect humanity. Yes, occasionally I will offend some people. But so did Jesus. In His own words, He came to bring “not peace, but a sword” and set families against each other. In fact, Jesus offended so many people that He was crucified. However, He had the last word on Easter…even death could not silence Him. His Body lives forever, and that Body is the Church. The people of God may suffer in the short run if we do our jobs and proclaim the Kingdom no matter who it offends, but by doing so, like Jesus, we will triumph in the end.

Ann Fontaine

I preach what the readings and Gospel meant in times when it was written, how it may speak to today IMO, and where is the good news -the hope – in how we can respond? I am clear that I don’t have the last word on the meaning of the texts – but people may find other messages. I find hearing sermons that leave me more depressed after church than before don’t work for me.

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