Our tribe is growing! More and more of us claiming the archetypal passion of Fiercely Compassionate Grandmothers.
I’m thrilled! I imagine us gathered around a campfire (in comfortable chairs!) telling the stories that make us who we are. The stories that hold us together, if for no other reason than because they were, and are, true. This is one of mine. One you may not know.
I cut my preaching teeth in rural Tennessee, the historical home of the KKK. A summer internship after my first year in seminary. It was not an easy time. A young and enthusiastic boss, finding his own voice. Told not, for the first intern, to come back with a student of the female persuasion. (I have cleaned up the language more than a bit!)
Then there was the whole thing about standing up in front of people who did not know me and doing my best to interpret the word of God. Not the word that seemed easy for that day. The word designated in a fancy calendar called the lectionary, which is a three-year plan for reading through the entire bible. A lesson from the Hebrew scriptures. One from wisdom literature, usually the Psalms. A gospel lesson. And one from a New Testament letter.
Read three or four, if you were new-fangled back then, and brave. Focus on one or two in a sermon. Forget Karl Barth, and leave the news entirely out of it, if you hoped to survive. Or, pray hard and allow the Word to speak. A big job for a very new professional Christian.
And the vital presence of people of actual faith, opening their arms and their ears to a single mom and a really cute kid, trying to find their place amongst the people of God in an old southern Presbyterian church.
An old southern Presbyterian church in the late 1980’s that was somehow surviving a young pastor. The most liberal preacher they had ever known. Surviving an inter-racial family in the congregation. Surviving conversations they had never had before.
I learned a lot that summer. I am learning, still.
One of the biggest things I learned is that people of faith often confuse beliefs–theology, if you will–with things that feel safe because we’ve always done them that way. Hymns. Neighbors. Marriage. Politics. Neurologically, familiar equals safe.
It doesn’t always work, though, in the Kingdom, here on Earth. Sometimes we have to do new things.
Are you opposed to racism? Get to know some people who don’t look just like you do.
Are you opposed to sexism? Look beyond gender to see new skills and enthusiasm. (And, wow, did I need a reminder on this one this week!)
Are you opposed to injustice? Feed the poor. House the homeless. Shelter the oppressed. Defend the children. Protect the civil rights of all.
There’s the word that’s hard.
Because “all,” in America, means all.
I remember when Dr. King was killed. We lived in Chicago. Riots rocked the city. Children were afraid. And nobody in my world had answers.
And yet, America was changed.
Dr. King led the March on Washington in 1963.
Fifty-four years later, my nine-year old granddaughter participated in the Women’s March on Washington. Once, when traffic stopped completely, my little one climbed on top of a bike to report to her mom and their friends about what was happening.
“The people don’t stop,” she said. “They just keep going.”
And you know, and I know, that change was in the air.
It is time to hold that change dear. To keep going. To honor the sacrifice of those who fought for a different future. To act as people who have been changed. To live as those who believe in dreams. Perhaps time, now, more than ever before.
The most important message in this moment comes from Dr. King:
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
The answer is, now, as it was then, and long before then, the way to change the world. And art helps!
It’s our turn.