Monday, January 17, 2011

Why MLK Jr. Day was all about me

Mid-way through ministerial school, lately I've had my doubts. I gave my first sermon last fall at the Tahoe-Truckee Center for Spiritual Living. It was well-delivered and well-received. There was laughter and there were tears (in the congregation and with me). I spoke about something I had personally experienced, which I thought would be useful and which I thought mattered to me. Afterward, it became clear that it didn't. Matter. To me. That is, I felt hollow, empty, sort of like, okay, I've done that, now what?

I hearkened back to the feeling I'd had when I'd addressed political rallies or testified before committees (testify!), mostly for health care reform. I remembered feeling a sense of purpose, that I had made a difference. In the church, people were telling me that I had made a difference, but I didn't feel that I did. I began to wonder whether the ministry was really for me.

Fast-forward to this past weekend's class on Church Financial Management, "a very sexy topic," as our wonderful teacher/minister Rev. Barbara Leger late of the Ukraine put it. Questions came up related to the relevance of our tradition to people who struggling just to survive--do we really just want them to change their thoughts? What do we have to offer?

The professor reminded us that in our ministries it was up to us to come up with our own answers to these questions, no one was going to answer them for us. This challenge struck a deep chord within me

As I was driving on the freeway today, listening to NPR, I continued to ponder this thought, is that what it is to be a minister? to find the answers for myself so that I can share them with others? I mused, what would that look like? Where are the role models for someone who has been able to make their ministry relevant to society, important to social change.

All of sudden, Martin Luther King's voice jumps out from the radio. "I have a dream," he booms. "...a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." It hits me: my God, there it is. This man I've idolized and listened to my whole life was one of the greatest practitioners ever of the spiritual principles I've learned.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew that it all starts in the mind; it starts with a dream; but then you move your feet toward that dream and 47 years later, with an African American in the White House, much (not all, but much) of what Rev. Martin spoke his word for that day has come to pass.

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