I was prepared for yesterday (Sunday, February 18, 2018) to be a “different” kind of Sunday, given the recent tragedy in our community. We’d already modified the service to address the myriad questions and emotions, to honor the dead, and to comfort the hurting. We were prepared for larger crowds, knowing people often turn to the God and the Church following tragedies. And, they did.
I didn’t, however, expect Governor Rick Scott to show up. We’d heard it was possible, but didn’t know for sure. Governor Scott was in town to attend several funerals of the victims, and wanted to attend a worship service in the community. He chose First Church, and we are honored that he did.
I also didn’t expect the press. They weren’t there for the Governor – that had been kept a secret. But, they were all there!
Throughout the morning, different people said comments to me, like, “You must have worked extra hard on that sermon, preaching for the Governor!”
With no disrespect for Governor Scott, at all, and no desire to sound self-righteous, I honestly replied, “Governor Scott never crossed my mind. I was preaching for the person whose hurting the most, and needed to find God this morning.”
Maybe that person was Governor Scott. I don’t know. If so, thank God.
I wrote and delivered my sermon, with someone local in mind – not Governor Scott, and not the press. I was thinking of the grieving, the confused, the traumatized, the hurting. I was thinking of the men and women, children and youth, who’ve been most personally affected by this terrible tragedy. I was thinking about the person who needed to be reminded that God exists. I was thinking of the person who needed to hear that God is with us in our pain and suffering. I was thinking about the person who needed to hear that it’s ok not to be ok.
Please don’t hear any of this as false humility. Yes, I was conscious of the Governor’s presence (as well as his security detail). I was aware of the cameras and microphones, recording my every word and move. I was aware that I really need a hair cut; that my shirt was too wrinkled; that I’ve gained way too much weight. I was aware that I was missing a rare opportunity to address the broader topics of gun violence, mental health, school safety, mental health, etc., etc. I was painfully aware of every word I stumbled over, and every thought I couldn’t articulate. I was deeply aware of my many pastoral inadequacies and shortcomings.
But, thankfully, none of that was my primary focus.
Maybe something I said, or something the press recorded, or something they experienced personally, may have touched them or a broader audience. If so, to God be the glory. But, that, to me, is secondary.
Isn’t it interesting how our attention is drawn to what, or who, the world says is important – like a governor or the press? No doubt, they are important, in their own respective ways. And yet, Jesus’ attention was always drawn to the least “important,” and the ones who suffered the most. Jesus’ attention is still drawn to suffering. I hope the same is always true of me.
The Governor has returned to Tallahassee, I suspect. Soon, the attention of the press will be drawn elsewhere – not to another tragedy, like this one, I pray. Soon, life in Coral Springs and Parkland will return to “normal” – whatever that means, now. But, the wounds inflicted upon us on February 14, 2018 will remain for a long, long time.
That’s all that mattered to me yesterday. That’s what matters to me today.