So, I’m working on my sermon, and I am finding the job very difficult. Partly that is because this will be the penultimate sermon I will preach as senior pastor of Virginia-Highland Church. Our modern lesson on Sunday will be from the movie “La La Land,” and next Sunday our homeless ministry, called The River, will lead the service. The last Sunday of the month will be my last sermon at the church.
It feels like these last couple of sermons should be important, but then I HOPE all of my sermons have some importance. It feels like I should be creative, like there is still much to say, like I need to pave the way for the next phase of growth under the leadership of my successor. All of these things clamor inside of me, but I honestly can’t figure out what to preach about.
One thing is certain: If I had known this was going to be my next-to-last sermon at Virginia-Highland Church, I would not have chosen “La La Land” as the movie for this Sunday. However, we have banners printed and a movie night planned, and we’ve advertised it. So, I guess it’s like those weeks when the assigned lesson says something about God or Jesus that I simply don’t believe. Sundays like this separate the adults from the children when it comes to doing this job. “If it was easy everyone would do it.” Fortunately, it isn’t and they don’t, or I’d be out of a job.
The other challenge is that I actually have not seen “La La Land.” Movie musicals just aren’t my thing. I had never seen “The Sound of Music” until recently, though it was one of Bill’s favorite movies. This isn’t exactly an old-fashioned Hollywood musical film, but it is close enough that I avoided it. David saw it, but he was kind enough not to force me to go nor to talk endlessly about it once he had seen, and loved, it. Now I have to preach about the moral or spiritual lesson that can be gleaned from it. So far, I’m not having much luck.
Perhaps that is the spiritual lesson I can leave you with today. Every time something awful happens, like a hurricane, people try to give it some spiritual meaning. We even call them “acts of God.” Some fundamentalist preacher will declare that God was punishing a city or state because of homosexuality or something else they consider sinful. The truth is God very well may want to punish the state of Texas for lots of the mean-spirited, regressive, bigoted laws they have been passing lately. The trouble is the hurricane hit too far south. The state capitol is the tallest building in Austin. A lightning bolt or two would have been much more efficient to punish the truly guilty parties. Instead, the hurricane punished the poor in south Texas most severely.
That is the trouble with trying to draw a spiritual lesson from everything: some things just happen, and that is the only reason for them.
Rev. Michael Piazza