Clarity of Call

The NAACP turns 100 this year. Our local chapter hosts a celebration on the Sunday night of MLK weekend every year. Last night, Sweet Honey in the Rock graced us with songs of hope. I've seen them perform in New York before. Twice, I think. I sat in majestic Carnegie Hall before I was risen to my feet in a call to sing for justice. Last night was no different. I was moved to sing. I was empowered by their words -- the songs they sang and the stories they told. And yet, it's not just that. It's how they create community in a concert hall. Suddenly, you feel wrapped up in something. You feel like you belong and that you have a purpose.

That's when I started thinking. They're just singers. They get on stage and sing. That's what they do. They sing. They just sing.

Of course, it's more than that. They give us a song to sing, like the Freedom Singers did during the civil rights movements in the 1960s. Sweet Honey continues that tradition. These are songs for justice. These are the songs that give us meaning and give us hope. They are songs for now because justice hasn't yet rolled down like water.

This is what makes me think about my call -- because most of the time I don't feel like I'm doing anything that will transform our world into one of justice and peace. Instead, it feels like most of the work that I do is unrelated to the world that I hope to see. Seated beside me at the concert was a friend who's a teacher. She teaches ESL. Last night, she told me that teaching is social justice. This stuck. This is rattling around in my head as I realize that I'm called to teach. This is what I enjoy most about my work -- even though I never, ever, ever thought that this is what mattered most to me.

This is the clarity that came in that concert last night. It made sense. I not only had a song. I understood more about who I'm supposed to be in the world. I'm supposed to teach -- as I did last Sunday night. I sat with a group of parents and talked about how to share your faith with their kids. It was the last of three conversations where we got to push each other in thinking about our story and why faith matters. I push. That's one of the things that I do in my ministry. I ask hard questions about faith -- because these questions were asked of me. I learned more about myself and my God through these questions. That's what I want for all of God's people. That's why I do what I do. I teach. I remind them that they already have the answers. I give a vocabulary for things that they may never have expressed. And that's the thing that really strikes me. I realized that I have spent lots of time thinking about my understanding of faith and how it relates to who I am. That's why I went to seminary. Now, I'm figuring out how to share that. I'm giving others a song that I was taught to sing -- but in every beat, I'm working to make sure that they lyrics are their own. This is how I work for social justice. This is how I will work for peace.

Every day, this is how I celebrate and remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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