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It really wasn’t a surprise yesterday to hear a sermon discussing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our President Elect. I didn’t really know what to expect out of the sermon (text and audio can be found here), but Anthony came through, as I knew he would.
There was a lot to think about (again, no surprise), so I’ll focus on the main idea I drew from the morning, society and history’s tendency to immortalize our heroes, to rob them of their humanity and foibles, and thus to do them and ourselves a great disservice.
We remember so many people from our past inaccurately. Or, perhaps not inaccurately, but incompletely. We see them for one event, or a series of them, and we forget that they were born of a human mother, had slips of the tongue, experienced massive self-doubt and cynicism, and sometimes just screwed up royally.
A story from Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father shared a time when he was overcome by cynicism and overwhelmed by the difficulty of a task, a time when he vowed never to make a speech again. A friend of his set him straight, basically telling him to get his head out of his rear end and focus on the people who needed help.
Another story told of the Montgomery Bus Strike, and the request put to Dr. King to lead it. He hesitated, not wanting the responsibility, until set straight and reminded of his abilities and the change he could make by Ralph Abernathy.
The latter story would be shocking to many who stopped to think about it. THE Dr. M.L. King hesitating over leading a strike? The event that would essentially launch his leadership of the civil rights movement? But…that’s so human!
And that’s where we do ourselves and our world a disservice, because here’s the thing: We are all just as capable of making a change in the world as Dr. King or President Elect Obama. We are all made of the same flesh and bone. They made mistakes in their lives, and since Mr. Obama has many years ahead of him, he will probably make many more. Just as we all will.
So, the perfection of our heroes cannot be an excuse on our part not to act for that in which we believe. It is the responsibility of every one of us to be stewards of our fellow humankind, our planet, and our resources. “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” and “I’m not a good speaker,” are no longer valid excuses once we realize that every person we idolize was or is as human as we are.
We all have our strengths and our resources and our convictions. I may not have income to share with needy organizations at the moment, or the focus of mind to organize rallies, but I have a voice and a gift with words (and a blog, and Facebook, and Twitter), so I can share that. For now, it will be enough.
What are your strengths and resources? What are your convictions? How will you use them to carry on the dream of peace, equality, and an end to suffering?
In RE (Religious Education, aka Sunday School) today, Kalen’s K/1 class learned about thresholds. Of course, at this age, the focus was on literal thresholds…places where we begin and end various physical journeys, entrances into our homes, etc. Of course, it leaves open the opportunity to segue nicely into a discussion about figurative thresholds, especially the threshold these little ones are on, beginning a spiritual journey that will last the rest of their lives. I think, however, that this figurative interpretation is best left to the parents for the time being, at least in our family. (Kalen’s response to these sorts of observations is usually something along the lines of, “Yeah, okay. Hey, Mom, look how Lego Batman can drive this car…*insert appropriate vehicular sound effects*”)
One of the class’s explorations of the threshold lesson was a visit to the small labyrinth outside the church. Labyrinths have an interesting spiritual history, dating (at least) to Ancient Greece and the story of Dedalus. They are used to represent spiritual journeys, as a meditation tool, etc. I was never one to discern symbolism easily on my own, but once the idea of a labyrinth or maze as a symbol for a spirtual journey was planted in my mind, I’ve never let go of that interpretation. I love the vision of a faceless someone twisting and turning along life’s paths.
As I relaxed for a few moments this afternoon with a Sudoku puzzle, it occurred to me that the labyrinthine model can be applied to it – that there are possibly dozens of everyday activities that act as a similar spiritual journey for those that engage in them. I thought about how I enter a Sudoku puzzle with a single numeral, and that numeral leads me to another, and another, and another, until eventually, with one final numeral, I exit the puzzle. I find Sudoku to be a meditative experience. Each puzzle contains many paths to completion, and gentle contemplation and perseverence will always lead to a solution.
Sudoku = Labyrinth = Life
This morning, I went back to church for the first time in about four years. I belong to a Unitarian Universalist congregation. A few years ago, I began working Sundays, and it simply didn’t work out. Now that I’ve left the store, however, and the kids are getting to the age where they’re (a) asking a lot of questions and (b) being bombarded with religious points of view Jason and I don’t agree with, we determined that it was time to return. There’s been a new minister installed since I last attended, and I am thrilled to report that I enjoyed his sermon immensely. I look forward to hearing what he has to offer in the coming weeks and months.
Today’s sermon was entitled Turnings: The Amazing Story of John Murray. (I’ll link directly to the sermon text when it’s uploaded to the congregation’s website, as it is much more eloquent than I can be. – Ah, here’s the place.) The message I received from the sermon was, I hope, what Rev. David intended. John Murray was the father of Universalism in America. To paraphrase Rev. David, Universalists believe in abundance. There is more than enough love and grace to go around, and spreading the light of these is a far better way to guide someone spiritually, and to govern, than is fear.
This is one of the main principles I was raised on (no surprise, as I was raised a UU). It was a tremendous feeling to be in a sanctuary filled with people who felt the same – who agreed that love and peace and grace are the true nature of the universe.
In the benediction, after the congregation had joined in singing This Little Light of Mine, Rev. David reminded us of our ability and responsibility to spread this message of Universal Abundance, to let our lights shine for the world to see. So here it is, my little light.