Thursday, April 16, 2009

"I must be losing my mime?"

I must be losing my mime? Several years ago my wife, several friends, and I were in the Baltic state of Estonia.  After many hours of adjusting from the Central Time Zone to whatever time, and in our sleep-deprived state, we would sit up and see how many times we could replace the word mime for mind.  I lost pretty much every time, but not really.

It often generates memories that make me laugh without saying a word at the most inconspicuous times.  Sometimes my eyes water, because the memory is so strong.  What made it worse, was we usually were the only ones in the room that was “silly as a school girl.”  (I am only assuming school girls are silly…no schoolgirls were harmed in any way during the creation of this blog!  Back off my friends a lawyer.  Seriously, if schoolgirls are not silly someone needs to tell me, because I use that a lot.)  Sorry, I digress.  Where was I? Oh yah, mime.  Because of my friends and the love of God I have everlasting memories from which to draw endless strength.

This week’s text for a sermon that I am preparing is John 20:19-31.  In this lectionary text, the risen Savior has visited the disciples behind locked doors, probably a locked door.  Regardless, Jesus met the disciples, and Thomas, where they were. 

When I laugh, and the image of my friends and family appear before me, Christ meets me where I am.  In my mime, that’s an incredible thing. 




I just concluded reading Thurman’s second and forth chapters of “Jesus and the Disinherited, ” and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.”  I cannot ever remember feeling so moved.  Thurman’s use of the “fear” and “hatred” as two legs of the “Hounds of Hell” were extraordinary in their distinction, but Dr King’s letter from Birmingham created such a yearning that I find it’s hard to put into words the emotions that are present. (Disinherited. Pg. 29)  For the first time since enrollment at Candler, I feel like I am in ministry.   I feel the burden of examining equal parts of discernment and action.  The discernment to understand what an ounce of despair must feel like when you were betrayed by a faith that preaches hope.  Despair for your thoughts hour-on-end only to question your call.  Although Dr. King’s letter reveals no proof of the latter I take that indulgence on my own, for I feel a certain amount human detachment between my education and my call.

This endeavor may be futile except that what I have just read drives me to write and inspires me to live.  In simple ways, I want to share why Dr. King’s letter from Birmingham is the best epistle I’ve read since my arrival at Candler.

Dr. Kings timing was impeccable.  Many subsequent classes have created, in my soul, doubt of my decision to pursue a Masters of Divinity.  I had lost my drive and felt there is a chance I am not smart enough to maintain the educational standard I was use to in the business world of which I was a part.  In simple terms, I lost my drive to believe in what I was doing.  Regardless of my attempts at an A average reality finds me struggling to maintain a B average.  The strength is in the pursuit.  Between the lines of Dr. King’s letter I heard a tired man that was revealing his worst disappointment.  That disappointment was being blindsided by the academy in which he pledged his life, The Community of Faith.   He articulated without a hint of violence a vernacular of his reality, as well as, the reality for those that tried to articulate their position against him.  In his voice I heard a wise man that I had not, growing up, attributed to his position.  The realness that I heard as I read his lengthy letter permitted me with enough strength to continue to commute from my family to Atlanta.  It provided me with the want-to that I need to read a little extra, and with sincerity and humbleness it gave me enough hope that I am in good company as I try to change the world.

The letter that I read was a great reference of all of the sources that we have been using in our classes up to this point.  I have never read a more articulate argument.  Dr. King used the sacrifices of the Apostle Paul, the expression of just law by Saint Augustine, the commitment of Socrates, and the penmanship of T.S. Elliot and Thomas Jefferson, each driving home an even greater understanding of how liberation – something Dr. King already possessed, rest within education.  Maybe that is a central theme of what is at stake by writing this letter from the Birmingham City Jail?  Dr. King’s act of liberating the south of segregation began by educating his race on Thurman’s design of the best path of action.  Once the peacemaking initiative, support of non-violent direct action, was enacted as in the case of Birmingham, Dr. King was careful to educate the white religious leaders of the community, therefore granting them a chance for freedom. (Stassen and Gushee, pg. 170)  Then off in the corner of a library on the campus of a seminary in the south an upper white middle-class male finds freedom in his fight for an education in a Masters of Divinity. 

I have never read anything that moved me as much as this evening’s attempt to read for our class.  What turned out as an assignment was the one thing that I needed to calm my spirits, to give me hope that within my own fight, education is worth what I’m asked to do.  I have proof that what the academic institution is doing must be working, because I have read Dr. King’s letter some years ago but with a different heart.  I am unsure if my changed heart is the election of America’s first African American to the Presidency, or if it is the King letter read on the heels of Thurman?  Either way, I have gained freedom 45 years after it was written to other southern white Church affiliates.