Every week of national turmoil is followed by a Sunday when preachers have a job to do. This week, as I prepare for my first sermon of the Trump presidency, I’m thinking of Ralph.
Ralph is a parishioner of mine who died last year. Besides being a faithful, gracious, generous, and supportive man, he was one of the more conservative folks at St. Andrew’s, our progressive-leaning Greensboro, North Carolina, church.
We never spoke of politics. I simply knew from a comment here and grumble there that he wasn’t wild about the church’s overall direction. I loved and respected him for that. He wasn’t alone, but he wasn’t in the majority either. It was not my job to convert him but to be aware of his perspective and to listen to him.
Knowing that Ralph would be in church every Sunday (eighth pew on the pulpit side, beside a window) influenced how I preached. That’s not to say that I watered down my homilies because of him. I think instead that Ralph’s attendance imposed a certain discipline on me. If I was casting a vision of God’s justice that hinted that true faith was decided along liberal or conservative lines, then I risked cutting people off.