Saturday, January 15, 2011

Epiphany and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I've heard from a few people that my posting habits have gotten slack this winter.  I apologize, but the craziness of the holidays were followed by busy weeks of travel.  January has finally started to settle into a rhythm, and I shall strive to write more regularly.

We've entered this year's long season of Epiphany.  With Easter falling so late, there is a long stretch between Epiphany and Transfiguration, eight Sundays that don't immediately bring to mind hymns or themes of the church.  The hymnal simply labels a number of hymns with the heading "Time after Epiphany."  It's a season of the year without a strong message or purpose, and it leads us to a grab bag of familiar tunes this week.

We'll sing "Hail to the Lord's Anointed" and "Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness," two upbeat hymns of praise.  At communion, the text "What Feast of Love" will be paired with the tune Greensleeves, likely still stirring memories of Christmas.

And we'll close with the civil rights anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing."  The song is now more than 100 years old, but it still speaks so eloquently of the American experience.  When I think of the hymn, its strong, lilting beat immediately springs to mind as a joyous march.  Rereading the text this week, though, I was reminded again of the depth and breadth of emotion and meaning packed into its three verses.  The hymn offers praise: "Let our rejoicing rise high as the list'ning skies."  But it also recognizes a difficult and contentious past: "Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast'ning rod."  After such a difficult second verse, it resolves not only with trust in God, but service to "our native land."

There is a great deal of rhetoric lately about building a more civil and understanding society.  Balancing passionate activism and advocacy with understanding and respect is always a challenge.  But it's one that Martin Luther King, Jr. and other great leaders strove to overcome.  On a grab bag Sunday in the season of Epiphany, that wouldn't be a bad message to contemplate and enact in our lives - perhaps as a late New Year's resolution for civility and compromise.

1 comment:

  1. Civility and compromise have not exactly been the primary watchwords of history, but if we are to avoid the tragedies of the past we will need to work on these it seems. Even the church has too often been torn apart by disagreement, even at times leading to wars or the killing of individuals in "holy causes." We should remember than MLK was not only a civil rights activist, but also a passificist who believed in non-violent means.