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.

5 thoughts on “Preaching for the Governor… and Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, Reuters…

  1. I’m glad you were preaching for us, not the Governor. It was a great sermon.

    Please pray for the Douglas kids who are going to Tallahassee tomorrow and for their chaperones. I’m praying that our ride there is safe and that the legislators who we will be meeting with have open minds and are truly willing to listen to our kids. We are to leave tomorrow at 1 and return Wednesday by midnight.

    I have hugged many aching former students in the past few days. Also kids I’ve never met before! They may be aching, but they are not going to be complacent. I think gun control has met its match with these articulate kids!

    I have watched my former fourth graders being interviewed by all major news outlets including BBC! I have been interviewed by NBC, CNN, Daily Beast, Good Morning America, Time Magazine, Reuters and the AP. I pray I stay on point. (I also had a one on one with our governor in the sanctuary.) As I near my retirement from teaching, I am realizing I cannot let my advocacy for kids and students go.

    Thanks for encouraging me to speak to The Governor. BTW. Have a nice week Cathy

    Sent from my iPhone

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. All need to hear God’s word being preached. The Governor was there and may return one day. Your sermon, also, may have reached one of the news crew that may not have shown up in any church had they not been there for Governor Scott.

    God is in control.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tried to write this earlier, but couldn’t get my thoughts out and I don’t think I posted it properly. Pastor Vance, thank you for sharing with us yesterday. I thank God for you and your willingness to put yourself out there in all your human-ness. Thank you for bringing my focus on where it needed to be – On God.

    Where was He? He showed up. I know God was working yesterday because put his arm around my shoulder and his hand over my mouth. I was angry, hurt, sad, lost. I had spent the weekend comforting the children in our soccer program – to give them some boundaries in the simple form of a soccer field. Today was my day to come and be wrapped in His arms.

    But then Rick Scott showed up and I didn’t want him there. He had no place there. Go away. But God knew otherwise. I was in the supply closet and pulled in Lisa, a friend and asked her to pray with me. In the dark, in a very small space, we prayed.

    Sure enough, Rick Scott sat directly behind me. Spoke to me, shook my hand. Still, I wanted him to go. Thank you, Vance, for challenging us all to feel our emotions, to acknowledge we wanted God to come in like a fierce Lion and save us. But… worthy is the Lamb.

    After the service was over, I turned to Rick Scott and was face to face. I looked him in the eyes, put my hands on his face and spoke. Today, you are Rick. Just Rick. You are welcome here, you are comforted here – you are Rick. Just Rick. I pray that you allow yourself to be just Rick.

    When you leave here and go back to ‘your world’, I hope that as Governor Rick Scott, you will stand up and make changes. That you will not forget what you shared with us here. That you are just Rick. A child of God.

    And then I left.

    I am not sure I could have gotten through that service, with my encounter with Rick Scott, on my own. God showed up.

    Thank you, Vance.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Vance, I am searching for words from my heart to respond to your beautiful, meaningful, words of wisdom. You, my friend, are a true man of God (though human) and preach his words and the Bible so well. And your honesty and humility overwhelm me. Yes, my heart is very heavy laden as others. I hurt, feel sadness and anger as well as for all of the children, parents, teachers and victims. Thank you for yesterdays sermon – it was so so POWERFUL and PERFECT. Please add me to the list of those you are praying for and I’m praying for you and others suffering. Blessings,

    Dee Cairnes

    Sent from my iPad

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    Liked by 2 people

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