It doesn't take more than two hands to count the number of times I've preached since I graduated seminary, so I don't have a lot of practice, haven't gone through years' worth of ups and downs with a particular congregation, and have spent most of my time in more school learning to make my writing less accessible and then trying to make it more accessible.
So I wondered what would have happened if I had been preaching this morning.
I would have preached exhausted from 11 weeks of figuring out being a family of four and sore from four straight days of strongman training.
I would have preached whatever the lectionary text was, so the story of the good Samaritan and maybe something about what it means to be someone's neighbor.
I would have preached wondering if a sermon would function any differently than a tweet, hashtag, facebook post, blog entry, or meme.
I would have preached having earlier in the week watched a video on my phone of Alton Sterling being shot in his chest while two police officers pinned him to the pavement of a Baton Rouge gas station.
I would have preached having watched a video on my phone of Diamond Reynolds recording the live death of her boyfriend Philando Castile on the side of I-94 in Minnesota during a traffic stop for a broken taillight.
I would have preached on Sunday having woken up Friday to learn that 12 police officers were the victims of a sniper attack during a #BlackLivesMatter protest in Dallas and that Officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens were killed.
I would have preached after mass arrests in protests in Baton Rouge and highways shut down by protesters from Atlanta to Minnesota.
I would have preached wondering, maybe aloud, where God was in all of this.
I would have preached wondering where, or who, the neighbors were, or are.
I would have preached as someone who is very uncomfortable around guns.
I would have probably preached to a congregation that looked a lot like me.
I would have preached wondering whether my skin tone and gender normalized or reinforced the idea that someone who looks like me ought to occupy the space of the pulpit (even subconsciously).
I would have preached wondering whether stating that black, gay, lesbian, trans lives matter would alienate me from the congregation or would seem condescending or paternalistic or tokenish or white saviorish.
I would have preached knowing that this discomfort is why I don't preach much.
I would have preached knowing something needed to be said, but not knowing what it is or if I'm the one to say it.
I would have preached wondering, again maybe aloud, whether humans have passed the point of being able to solve our problems or if hate and violence were just the normal state of affairs.
I would have preached while doubting.
I would have preached while lamenting.
I would have preached without a lot of hope.
I would have preached about the beaten man in the story waiting for help and being ignored.
I would have preached about this half-dead man wondering if his life mattered.
I would have preached about what this man may have thought about his neighbors as his life seemed to be coming to an end.
I would wonder if he thought about God or about neighbor, or if he may have considered an absence of both, or if the beating left him unable to think much about anything.
I know how I hope I would have preached, but I didn't preach this morning.