At the height of public protest in the United States against a travel ban that seemed to be targeting Muslim countries, the Lectionary readings that Sunday spoke of justice, mercy, and welcoming the stranger. It was the perfect moment for homilists to call their assemblies to live the Gospel. Many stepped up and preached the Gospel’s challenging word. However, many more did not, choosing some other topic not as difficult to speak and hear. One friend who is a priest confided in me later that it had been so long since he had taken the risk of preaching a difficult message. When the readings and the moment made it clear he had to, he was afraid he didn’t know how to any longer.
Like him, in many ways we’ve lost the ability to respond to the urgency of the liturgy. Rather than dropping everything like the first disciples or turning our lives around like the Ninevites, it’s easier to stay in maintenance mode.
Annie Dillard warned that in church, we should put on crash helmets, for “the waking god may draw us to where we can never return” (Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters). What we hear and see, say and do, sing and promise on Sunday can turn the world upside-down if only we have the courage to believe and do it.