Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, January 16, 2022

"Shed A Little Light"


St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Georgetown, DE
Live streamed via Facebook Sirach 26:10
January 16, 2022


Oh, let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women living on the Earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood


That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world
Become a place in which our children
Can grow free and strong


We are bound together by the task
That stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound, and we are bound


Yesterday (1/15/22) was the 93rd  anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr (1929) Tomorrow is a federal holiday in his honor.


For many of us, it will just be another day, one which we will glide through without much thought about the man the day is set aside to honor, much less why it is important to remember him and the struggle and the victories he represents as well as the challenges that continue to lie ahead to live fully into the American Dream of “liberty and justice for all.”


I was a very young girl during the height of the unrest of the Civil Rights Movement. Like you, I have seen images in history books and historical documentaries on TV of the height of the unrest.


Like you, I have watched the grainy black and white news clips of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And, I have traveled to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, at the Lorraine Motel and stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was shot and killed.


The memory that sears in my mind, however, is the one I personally experienced. It’s just a moment. The details are fuzzy as to why we traveled from my childhood home in Fall River, MA to Boston that day. I only remember that we were going to see relatives. That something had happened in the early morning hours – something to cause unrest – something about two words that sounded strange and ominous: desegregation and busing.


I remember my father holding my hand tight - so tight it hurt and I complained. I remember the smell of his breath – cigarettes with a hint of Listerine – as he leaned into my face and said, “Do. Not. Let. Go. Of. My. Hand.”


I remember looking up. On top of every building there were policemen and soldiers, fully armed, guns fully loaded and pointing outward – left and right – and down at the street where we were walking. Daddy said that they were there to keep the peace. That sounded strange and ominous.


And, I remember walking through a single file of men – Black men – every one dressed in a suit and a bow tie – lining both sides of the street. They were unarmed and yet I knew – more clearly than I knew about the men on the roof with guns – that they were also there to keep the peace.

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps
The heart will never rest


These words of a song ("Shed a little light") by James Taylor capture for me the essence of what I experienced of The Civil Rights Movement.  It also captures the essence of the movement that continues today to fight against racism and race-hatred, anti-Semitism and tribalism.


In this church, we say that absolutely everyone is welcome – no exceptions. And, we mean it. I know you mean it or I wouldn’t be here with you today as your pastor. We come to this church to be nourished and fed so that we can go out into the world to do the work of Jesus. We are here to follow the words Mary said to the servants in this morning’s gospel: “Do whatever he tells you.”


No, we are not on the front lines of the struggle in this nation. I don’t know that any of us would call ourselves activists. And, that’s all right. St. Paul tell us,  

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” 

I would like to believe that each one of us in this church today, having be fed and nourished by Word and Sacrament, will go out into the world and do our part to find that “passage through the darkness and the mist” and always stand up for what is right. What is good. What is just. What is noble. What is true.


We are here, in this church, to be transformed. We are here to enter into the mystery of community – those who have come before us, those who are here now, and those who will come after we are gone. We are here to make this world a better place while we are here. We come to be fed so that we will have the strength and courage to be transformed so we can change and transform the world.


We are here because we know that we – to borrow the prose and poetry of Dr. King which he wrote from his cell in the Birmingham jail –

“are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be... This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

When I came home from Boston that day, I remember asking my grandmother about it. I remember asking why those soldiers were on the roof, and why those Black men were on the street, and why people didn’t want little Black children to go to school with little White children, especially when we sang the song, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world . . .”


My grandmother was a simple Portuguese woman who pretty much taught herself how to read and write. She was very proud of the fact that she came to this country with a only few dollars in her pocket and, when she died, she left her nine living children a house and land with no mortgage and one thousand dollars each. She kept her money in the Portuguese Women’s Bank And Trust, rolled up in a handkerchief, stuffed into her corset and close to her heart.


I remember that to answer my question, she held up her hand and said, “All the nations of the world are like members of a family. We’re all different, just like every finger on a hand is different. We all work together for the same common good. If you cut off one finger, the hand doesn’t work as well. We need all the fingers – and the thumb – in order for the hand to work.”


As I consider the Gospellesson for today – the first miracle of Jesus at the Wedding Feast at Cana – I realized something*. Yes, many of us are like the guests at the wedding banquet, waiting for the wine to be served. Many more of us are more like that holy water, locked up in those stone water jars. We are waiting to be transformed by Jesus from holy water into holy wine that will be poured out and used to the edification of everyone in community.


Two months before he was killed, Dr. King preached,

If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness. By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant. 

Want to change the world? Great! Want to end racism? Fabulous! Want to make certain that all lives, in fact, do matter? Wonderful! All you have to do is be willing to be changed and transformed, just as Jesus changed and transformed water into wine and be willing to be poured out to serve others.


At the bridge of that MLK song by James Taylor comes this little Epiphany prayer

Can't get no light from a dollar bill
Don't get me no light from a TV screen
Just shed a little light, oh Lord
Shed a little light, oh Lord
So that we can see.
Just shed a little light, oh Lord.

Because what we need is more light and less heat. More action and less reaction. More reasoned persuasiveness, less mindless passion. More compassion and peace and, please, Lord, less anger and violence. 


In this Season of The Epiphany and every season, shed a little light, oh Lord. And let the church say, ‘Amen’.


You know, in the history of the world, I don't think there's ever been one person who has been persuaded to change because they were called an 'idiot' or 'moron' or 'snowflake'.




How much better – how much brighter, more peaceful – would the world be today if we all followed the words of Mary who said to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you"?


Oh, Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women living on the Earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood.



*I am grateful to my "Weekly Clergy Lectionary Study and Giggle Group," and especially Jeff Ross, for this insight.

No comments: