By Rev. Dominique A. Robinson, Staff Associate for Contextual Education
No matter one’s gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, economic, educational or social status they are not immune to the “troubles of this world.” 2015 was a difficult year for many. On a national level we were made aware of the “Deflate Gate” with Tom Brady; Rachel Dolezal pretending to be African American; Brian Williams lying about being on a helicopter that was forced down while in Iraq; the Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle’s sentencing to 15 years for possession of child pornography and crossing state lines for commercial sex with a minor; institutional corruption in the soccer world; Lamar Odom found unconscious in a Nevada brothel; Josh Duggar finally admitting to molesting 5 girls including 2 of his sisters; the Ashley Madison database hacking that led to the resignation of several major CEOs (pastors included); Bill Cosby’s sexual assault allegations; and the trumped-up attention about the crowning of the wrong Miss Universe.
News stations were successful in reporting black on black crime, police brutality aka the lynching legacy, health scares (Ebola), domestic violence reports with professional sports players, ISIS beheadings, honor killings of our Middle Eastern sisters who refuse to be treated like property as they are married off to men they do not know, the brutal killings and kidnapping of hundreds by Boko Haram, school and mass shootings becoming the norm, anti-Muslim attacks and marches in France and Europe, boats and ferries sinking in flames, airplanes missing, and domestic and international terrorism and radicalization (California and Paris) in your face and home daily.
But the troubles of 2015 were not restricted to communal matters; people wrestled with personal troubles and fears that ran the gamut from marriage, pregnancy, raising children, job search/promotion, diversifying one’s marketability for a career, making dreams a reality, fulfilling purpose/calling, eliminating debt, creating wealth, dodging Sallie Mae, savings/retirement/pension, health, family reconciliation, and so much more. People are still struggling despite what they look like or behave like. And this is where I believe preaching makes the biggest difference in the life of the church-attending Believer.
With all that is going on around us, people need something to hold on to—something that will make their faith leap. One thing so powerful about preaching the Gospel is that there is “nothing new under the Sun.” In spite of all of the bad reports “Good News” still exists! It has to exist. Preaching this message makes one’s faith leap. It speaks directly to the ills of the day; it reminds the listener that they are not alone in this world of trouble. It offers hope no matter how bleak a situation may seem. Preaching that makes one’s faith leap allows individuals to wrestle or sit with the difficult questions of life like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It allows them to see, hear and feel the narratives, struggles, and triumphs of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David and Mary. The very essence of “God will make a way” is palatable in preaching that makes faith leap.
Preaching is the heartbeat of the church. It needs to be something that people can identify with, something they can ponder on all week, something that will carry them through another set of challenges, something they can share with others. People want to know how Joseph survived family dysfunction, betrayal, false accusation and imprisonment. Congregants are hungry to know how David pressed through knowing that there was a hit out on his life. Individuals of today need to know how Mary was able to bounce back after watching her innocent son publicly executed. Preachers of today are charged more than ever to deliver messages that make faith leap because desperate times call for desperate measures and we are in need of a desperate leap of faith.
Dominique A. Robinson is an ordained Elder in the AME Zion Church. She is also on staff at New Life Presbyterian Church and Columbia Theological Seminary. She was the winner of The Beatitudes Society’s 2015 Brave Preacher Award.
SAVE THE DATE! Join us for the return of one of our moist popular classes with Preaching the Verbs II. Back by popular demand, this seminar will teach you to read the biblical “script” by focusing on the verbs that are given and chosen by the characters. It’s what we do and don’t do that preoccupies human beings. And it’s the verbs we cannot imagine for ourselves (live, liberate, forgive, resurrect) that the church offers, and that we reach for, week after week. Dr. Anna Carter Florence and Rev. Khalia Williams put a twist on dramatic theory and invite us to see and hear new things in both our sacred text and our human drama when we connect the verbs. How can that, in turn, change and renew our preaching? October 24 – 26, 2016. Details and registration coming soon!