Sunday, July 12, 2015

Who Is My Neighbor?

Because my time in Kananga is coming to a close, the pastor at UCCP-Kananga asked me to preach before I left. Yesterday was my opportunity to be in the pulpit. If you would like to listen to the sermon, please take a listen here. If you are accessing this on a phone or tablet, you may have to take some extra steps to get to the file. Please let me know if you are having any issues.

Thank you, Mana Sally, for providing all of the pictures from yesterday's service

As I touched on in the sermon, this was a challenging task. I have preached and led services for years, but this was something different. I am very comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people, whether it is planned or spontaneous. I have prepared sermons plenty of times before. This was scary, though. I was nervous. You see, most of my preaching has been to people who look like me, who come from relatively similar circumstances as me, who speak the same native language as me. When planning a sermon, I have found that the message I preach to others is probably the same message I have needed to hear myself. How can I talk about living simply more when I am preaching to a congregation of some families that still have not repaired their homes from Typhoon Yolanda? How can I say we should be more generous when some of these families are struggling to put food on the table, clothes on their bodies, and sending their children to school?

At YAV Orientation, we discussed crossing borders as a part of our ministries at our sites. For me, this sermon was one of the clearest indicators of that border-crossing ministry. I was at a loss for words. Who was I to come from my place of immense privilege to tell this community how they should live? How could I speak the Word of God without invoking the white savior industrial complex? How could I avoid being preachy like I imagine the missionaries of old...and not so old? How could I speak the truth in love? Would they be able to understand my message since I could not preach in Bisaya? How could I teach something to people who have been the true teachers this year? What did I have to bring, and what was my place to bring it?

If I was such a mess trying to plan this one sermon, what made me think I should go to seminary and possibly do this for years? Maybe that is exactly why I need to go to seminary, so I can learn how best to organize my thoughts and communicate them to others.

These questions haunted my sermon planning, especially as I was putting the final touches on Saturday night. I cannot honestly take much credit in what came out of my mouth yesterday morning. I will give most credit to that inconvenient, uncomfortable, and nagging Wild Goose of the Holy Spirit. Even though I am leaving this country in 19 days, clearly the journey is far from over. 

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