Preaching peace unpeacefully

I preached peace last night. Two hours before the service started, I heard the news out of San Bernardino.

Last weekend, I felt sick writing my sermon as I read online the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and the execution of a Waffle House waitress.

It was not my body torn and plundered, rushed to the hospital, hooked up to medical devices and drips. I did not take that phone call, feel that stomach drop, the folding of the knees, the blood run cold to the floor.

A former schoolfriend shared the news that her husband’s cancer care has turned to comfort care. At dinner, my own husband had said, “I didn’t know if I would be here to celebrate my fiftieth birthday,” and we smiled. Does my relief at his recovery render my grief for my friend insincere?

I am insulated by my privilege and a white painted pulpit from the pain which my preaching addresses. My horror at my own hand-wringing distances me even from myself. Even this post is all about me.

I preached peace anyway; the peace that passes understanding; the peace with which Jesus leaves us, although he spent a lot of time, too, promising persecution. I worry that this will not be received as good news.

I feel lately as though I am always at a funeral, where my place is not within the grave, but standing over it offering prayers. Where my place is not in the front pew, weeping, but beyond it, pleading God for comfort. Where my place is not within the casket, but at its side, making the sign of the cross and declaiming, proclaiming resurrection against the evidence of our eyes.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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