Quirky Sermon: The Lantern & the Light

Quirky Sermon: The Lantern & the Light

Once in a while, I deliver a quirky little sermon. (Scroll to the bottom if you want to skip the backstory and go straight to the video. But the backstory might help.)

Preaching feels like this to me: 

Oh hello! I found this handful of things. You want any of this?

Often I find myself thinking: “How did I get here?” I was raised with no religion whatsoever. And if you’d talked to my teenage self, if I was going to have a religion, I definitely did not want it to be Christianity. I didn’t know that Christians existed who were (like me) socially & politically progressive; openly affirming of LGBTQ people and their rights; pro-choice, pro-science, anti-war; valued other faith traditions; didn’t think that everybody else was going to hell… the list goes on.

Suffice to say: they do exist.

Over the course of my teens and early twenties, I had a long and fumbling searching-for-Something—which I’m probably still in, honestly. But in my mid-twenties, to my surprise, I came across this young, energetic church and I had some powerful experiences there. Eventually I realized I was becoming an… attempted Christian? Which is probably the best version of Christian I’ll ever be.

I never thought I’d preach. I served bagels and made art and ran food drives and led some things, but I never went to seminary; I just geeked out on the Bible for about a decade. I read it deeply, read footnotes and commentaries, read about its historical and cultural contexts, but also meditated and prayed and journaled through it. Because it’s fascinating. And even more so, as I wrestled and argued and trysted with the Spirit in the forest of all that poetry and prophecy and stories, I found myself changing in good ways. 

Down the line, when I got my MFA in Writing and Literature, I had to deliver a lecture, and realized that I love teaching. I love taking complicated, nuanced things and making them clear and interesting. I love speaking to people in a way that might help them and do good in the world. I love having an experience along with a roomful of people who bring their own energy–laughing with them; they surprise me–listening for them even as I am speaking to them.


Preaching is a great responsibility. So much harm has been done in the name of religion and I feel that weight. Still, I love it.

Preaching got complicated for me post-2016, though, and here’s why.

I know I’m making a sermon when these 7 things come together:

  1. my own burning questions, doubts and ponderings +
  2. the world around us, here and now +
  3. teachings of Jesus +
  4. a smattering of weird anecdotes/science/beauty +
  5. a bunch of silly jokes
  6. a lot of colored scraps of paper
  7. a lot of prayer, because who am I to preach?!

quirky sermon.

I need all seven items. Otherwise, it stops feeling honest. I need all seven, including #2: the world around us, here and now.

And I have brothers & sisters all across the political spectrum, but post-2016, whenever I put the teachings of Jesus alongside the world–specifically when I try to reconcile them with the MAGA worldview–something in me breaks. White evangelicals are the least likely of all Americans to support asylum for refugees. I think of this, and read the teachings of Jesus, and cry. Literally cry. And I think, furthermore, in those moments: Do I belong here anymore?

There is no Us and Them. There is only Us. 

I kept preaching for about a year and a half into this new era, but it was getting hard, because I was part of a church that steers waaayyy clear of anything with a whiff of politics–and I get that, I do. But the things I have to say aren’t “politics” to me; I have no interest in scoring points or ideological pissing contests. I do care about dignity for everyone in the human family, not just my tribe, though, and there are things to say about that right now. And I began to understand why Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah couldn’t shut up.

It was getting very noisy in my head, and I had to take a step back so I could hear myself think. I went on a hiatus for about a year and a half.

I can’t say exactly why I felt the nudge to try a sermon again, but I can tell you:

  1. It was scary.
  2. I wanted every person in the room to know how loved they are. There is no Us vs. Them; there is only Us.

So–here it is, my first quirky sermon in a long time. (I delivered this on February 9, 2020–a few weeks before the coronavirus was all we could think about.)

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