It is well said that gifted men and women are not often the best men and women. It is interesting that while preachers find their strength at the pulpit, their charisma fortified in the circumstances of the church, they are sometimes soft-spoken individuals whose aptitude in social engagements is less than average. They squirm, avoiding questions, and resort to the subject of God when they are forced to speak. I do not mean to say that this true of every priest and minister, but I offer this as an example of one way in which those who speak about the need to excel at a certain thing are themselves poor examples of it.
The bus ride home gave me this inspiration; it was a mix of cold, music, and retreat into the self. At first glance, my epiphany appears quite obvious – superficial, even. But the more I thought about it, the more complicated the matter became. Being only able to speak from my mind and heart, I can say that the pull to proclaim comes with a heavy onus. I am bound by my words to make serious efforts toward what I claim is needed. If I tell the world that they need to be kind, even when the moment expects otherwise, then it is fitting I should do the same.
But there is more. What I want to profess – from the rooftops, if God will allow – is a vision of humanity that explodes the spirituality and faith of hierarchies. It is my firm belief that whatever God is, He is humankind in sum. This, I know, is not a new revelation, but how to go about living it is unchartered territory. How do we affect a union so great it requires the dissolution of all great schisms history has produced? And, indeed, speaking to a specific people in a specific time and place, how can I possibly suggest a way in which they can make a serious difference in the matter?
First of all, I would correct the “one man makes no difference” platitude, making clear instead that salvation is the business of all of us. For, if the “second coming” and the end of all things inimical to a God-power are to be affected, we must ALL be involved; we must be unified. Therefore, it is the business of every person what they do. If one – only one – is to be remiss, then the whole world is to remain quite short of the true manifestation of God. Unity is not in all things but one.
I suppose, then, among the ways to bring about this union is to reach out to those we don’t know, stir up kindness where it is least likely to appear, deliver happiness in times of desperation, and above all, live in faith and love as two unending, incorruptible gifts from the Divine. Here, however, is where the preacher stumbles.
All of this played over and over in my head. It was quite clear what the message would be if the time ever came to deliver it. Yet there was something awry. I looked back over my day – at the small things that pieced together to form a loose picture of my accomplishments. While I hesitate to put all weight on these, they are indicative of certain aspects of character and worthy of consideration. Let me share a few with you.
Some of my time at the office was spent in idle conversation. Admittedly, there were no pressing tasks and no one was waiting on me to complete a project that they then needed to work on. Still, the principle of being paid to work is a powerful one, and I am greatly anxious when I spend paid time not working.
Then there were the two middle age bus riders. They happened to get off at the same stop I did. While they rustled about near the front, trying to assemble hats and gloves before the bus stopped, I jumped to the front and hopped out. Were they the worse for wear? Most likely not. And yet, the principle is what matters – being kind enough to let them go first. It’s a rotten feeling that eats at your insides, however negligible the error.
And so I wonder: how much authority should be given to a man, allied to the church, lover of God, who cannot follow his own injunctions and spread kindness where it often lacks? I know that I do good things; proud of them, indeed, they become a means of solidifying an impregnable ethic and a tool for testing humility. But they are not everything I do. While I may, indeed, be proud of good accomplishments, I somehow feel that time spent honing my ethics and spiritual strength is a priority. Hence the reason for this diatribe.
I preach from the ambo, and what do you say? I spread the word of faith and hope – radical as they may seem—and what do you do? How is it the conviction that burns me up inside is the same conviction that so often cannot see the light of day? For, if the words I am able to preach are ones that see no life in people – including myself – then aren’t they empty words? I know that I do not write, do not speak idly. I always aim for understanding and betterment. But how can I expect my audience to change for the better when the shepherd struggles merely to get by?
I will say this for them, much to their credit: humans are spiritually brilliant. If they so choose, they will understand that the words carry themselves. I am called to act on this passion in some way, and if it is in proclamation, then so be it. But if I fall short of even my own exhortations, then is the message null and void? No one would possibly agree to that logic. I can only hope, therefore, that the words are pure and that the conviction it fires in those who listen find the good of it themselves. For just as I now sit and listen to the many sermons given, Sunday after Sunday, so too I must always remember that the preacher, the minister, the priest is so very much human. And I wonder – being almost certain after thinking on it some – that the humanity of those who inspire us is also necessary. There is something to be said for sharing in trials and tribulations without as imperfect as ourselves. Therefore, I must make my message: let us! and not, may you!
Perhaps tomorrow I can put all this to right. Perhaps, indeed, I may seek out the opportunity to do good where good utterly lacks. Perhaps I can let the old lady off the bus first.