“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
- Luke 10.30b-37
The sabbatical project that I will soon begin will retrace in miniature the steps of a journey. Not just any journey, mind you; but a journey begun years ago in the Deep South; a journey of discovery and growth that has led me from the segregated South of my youth to a faith of joyful inclusiveness. This is my story writ large, the macro-story of my life and faith, the “Big Story” if you will that defines, for better or for worse, the man I have become.
I will chronicle this sabbatical journey as it unfolds, in a blog – wakingthewind.net – that will also feature pictures and videos of the many exotic sites we will visit. Upon our return I will combine this micro-story with an exploration of the faith and convictions that led me even to consider such a journey, much less stay the course through thick and thin over the many years and countless miles of my ministry. The resulting book will be entitled Waking the Wind. One man’s journey from Southern segregation to joyful inclusiveness. I have been blessed with a glimpse of God’s boundless embrace of all people; and for that reason cursed and vilified by many whose vision is more narrowly focused. After all, why would I, a protestant Christian, extend fellowship not only to Christians of every stripe and color, but as well to those of different faiths altogether? Why would I recognize as neighbor those whose faith, skin color, gender, or sexual orientation doesn’t match my own? My answer is simple; I have been compelled by faith, enticed beyond myself by the love of Christ that refuses to rest content in my life, but insists on splashing joyfully into the lives of others… any and all others.
What better way to introduce this journey than by recounting one of the early experiences on which it is founded? Thus, in preparation for our celebration on Sunday, I include here for your reflection and prayer the first draft of the prologue to my faith journey:
“The day was sweltering and downright oppressive; that is to say, a typical summer day in the Deep South of my youth. On such a day it ain’t even possible to imagine anything worse, with the possible exception of that same sultry heat during two-a-days; two weeks of morning and evening football practice in preparation for the season ahead. This was the season we dreamed of all year in a kingdom where football reigned with divine sovereignty. Two-a-days were simply the wilderness wanderings we had to endure to make it to the Promised Land.
On such a day I finally understood the notion of neighbor expressed by Jesus in his parable of the Good Samaritan. This notion was radical, alien, and intimidating; because it defied the understanding of neighbor recognized in Southern culture and preached from pulpits far and wide every Sunday. Our notion, you see, excluded those who didn’t match our skin color, share our doctrines, or serve the same meal – pot roast & gravy – every Sunday following the most segregated hour in the fair land we call America. The notion of neighbor taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth… for now let’s just say it is much broader.
My eureka experience was made possible by Louis Moore, one of a handful of Blacks bussed into my high school in the mid-sixties; the only Black who had the courage to compete successfully with a hundred or so “Good ol’ boys” on the gridiron for a spot on the varsity squad. Our lockers were bookends on a row separated by a dozen or so others. One summer evening following a particularly grueling practice, I sat exhausted on the bench before my locker, drenched in sweat, stripped of pads from the waist up, slouched with hands on my knees, trying to summon the will to rise and make the painful trek to the showers. All of a sudden the row cleared out; swept away, as it were, by a divine hand. I looked down the row and there was Louis, sitting exhausted on the bench before his locker, drenched in sweat, stripped of pads from the waist up, slouched with hands on his knees, trying to summon the will to rise and make the painful trek to the showers. That’s when it dawned on me. “We are the same,” came a voice from deep within, “We are one.”
In that moment the blinders fell away, and years of indoctrination were silenced by the roaring wind that wakened in me; the wind of Spirit that lifted me up and caused me to soar to new heights. Taking as a model the notion of neighbor embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus, I began the journey that would take this “Good ol’ boy” from the segregated south of my youth, to a spirituality of joyful inclusiveness. This is my story.”
Please join us on Sunday for worship and a dinner celebrating my sabbatical. Worship is at 8:30 or 10:30, with the dinner following at noon. I hope to see you on Sunday.