Love & Hope
When I was in seminary, I struggled to fit in. Seminary is heavy on self-reflection to begin with (and it should be,) and I found myself wrestling with God about whether or not I had “the right stuff” to become an Episcopal priest. When those times of internal struggle became acute, I’d drive across the Potomac to The Washington National Cathedral. There, in the passage way on the north side of the Cathedral, carved in stone, is the likeness of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King preached his last Sunday sermon at the Cathedral. He’s remembered, there, with both his hands held forward, placed in the pulpit, clearly preaching. Below his image, the words “I have a dream” are carved into the stone, referencing, of course, a speech Dr. King gave just down the road. Dr. King’s words and witness are a source of great comfort, hope, healing, and inspiration for me. I suppose if I were one to have heroes, Jesus and Dr. King would be number one and number two, sometimes displacing one another for “first chair” though each is tied inextricably to the other—Jesus to King in a mystical way, King to Jesus, practically.
As I awoke yesterday morning to more news of violence, fire, destruction, protest, including peaceful protest, I went back to King for solace and hope, just as I did in grad school during those times of struggle. King was a master with words and a master at inspiring and encouraging the human heart. He calls us to live more boldly, more lovingly, more peacefully, more justly. Yesterday morning, with the help of Google, I stumbled into these words that are taken from a sermon preached in Oslo at the acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Peace. He preached,
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. . . I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Again, King’s words went straight to my heart, and, then, my gut. He has such a way of bringing feeling that leads to inspired, peaceful, loving action. If I believed in heroes, I’d say his words are heroic.
But, I don’t. I don’t believe in heroes. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I believe there are people with extraordinary accomplishment, accomplishment for the great good of all of humanity—black, white, brown, yellow, red, and every other color combination. Some seem able to lead movements for good that extend beyond the interests of humanity to include the entirety of the planet. It’s true. I just don’t think they’re heroes. In my heart of hearts, I believe they’re people just like us. I believe they’re people who demonstrate physical, psychological, and moral courage when it comes to facing the challenging issues of injustice that are systemic and plague us generation to generation.
The only way I see forward is into the heart, our own, and those of our brothers and sisters of every description. We are united in our intrinsic belovedness and unique in so many other ways. The way of the heart is not solitary, though it sometimes includes a measure of solitude. The way of the heart is a path toward unification. It includes prayer and open discourse. Most assuredly, it includes introspection and empathy, compassion, kindness, painful self-discovery, acceptance, forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. As brother or sister to Jesus and King, it’s our cause, our mission, our purpose, our calling. Rather than being pushed down, we are being raised up, again, to a life that embodies a deeper and fuller expression of love come down.
While our chests still rise and fall, it IS our time. We are not heroes. There is no such thing. Just people. People who have the opportunity to put forth great love in our community and beyond, and while our community may be sheltered from the destruction we see reported on the news, we are certain our community is not spared the injustices that inspire pain so poorly expressed.
As troubled as I am by our culture’s disunity, I am equally grateful to be on this particular road together with you.
Love and Hope,