This week I’ve been viewing a few sermons and lectures online through the Festival of Homiletics. It’s a weeklong conference that brings together preachers and professors of Homiletics (that’s the art of preaching/writing sermons if that’s an unusual word!) The goal of the festival is to inspire a discourse about preaching, worship, and culture. It’s been on my radar to go. And this year because of Covid-19, the festival has been offered online and free of charge if you view the sermons and lectures in real-time.
One of the most powerful moments of the festival was within a sermon by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He was speaking about our current pandemic, imploring us, “Do not neglect the power of your mourning.” And that out of your mourning will come a new morning. Rev. Moss reminded us that sometimes the greatest blessing is to have someone to talk to when you’re going through something, that we’re all dealing with loss but what we want is connectivity. God is present, though God is sometimes present just outside the frame. He was preaching this sermon in the empty sanctuary of the church he serves in Chicago. And the person recording panned out to create a wider shot as he spoke about God being present just outside the frame so that the audience could see that Rev. Moss’ wife, Monica, was sitting beside him in a pew the whole time he was preaching. It’s just that we didn’t see her because she was sitting just outside the frame.
It was a powerful image and a powerful message. It may feel too soon to contemplate the deeper meanings we’re discovering in the midst of this pandemic. Though a question that’s worth asking all the time really is where is God in your life? Where do you sense the presence of God? The idea that God is present and with us, just outside the frame is heartening at a time when there is a great deal of anxiety and suffering. Because it’s easy to see God present when everything is going well, and often it’s harder to see God present on the days where we’re really struggling. With my thanks to Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Monica Moss, and the Festival of Homiletics that’s the thought, or in this case, the question that I leave you with this week—where are you experiencing the presence of God? (And keep in mind just in case this week was an especially difficult one—God is present, just outside the frame.)
(This Week’s Thoughts 5.21.20)