My evening began with the voice of one young man, rapping about his identity as a child of God and his experience of racism, and calling out periodically, "If not us, THEN WHO?" He walked up and down the center aisle of an inner city church, filled with Lutherans and Catholics and Baptists and Episcopalians and Methodists, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians and Anglo Christians. "If not us," he repeated, "THEN WHO?"
The question sticks with me. If not us, then who?
It's so easy to keep separate. I have many things on my mind, all the time: work, family, health, friends, the different pains others have confided, the little enrichments I have indulged in. All these take time, and are important. It's so easy to keep separate. But the question remains, If not us, then who?
I don't know how many people filled the church, people of faith, people of hope. Some people confessed their times of hopelessness, until they banded together to work for justice: in health care, in education, in living wage jobs, in housing. A Lutheran pastor cast a vision of a banquet table with room enough for all; an integrated Baptist choir sang Feast of the Lord and invited us to sing along, to come along, to eat at the banquet where there is room for all. The Pastor talked about the paralyzed man, and the friends who dared to mess with the roof of the house so that he could have a place at the banquet. "Do we dare to mess with the sytem?" "Yes!" we cried, together, and strong.
But it's so easy to keep separate. There are so many things to do, good things, and not enough people to do them.
The church was filled tonight, but there were many people who didn't come, who were invited. They weren't evil people, just busy people, with many things to do, things to juggle.
But some of us were there, and we know (or at least some of us know) (or at least we are beginning to know) that there is power, and there is hope in being together.
We are beginning to cast a vision for creating Healthy Communities, to dare to talk about Race and Justice, especially as it affects education among us.
I was in charge of "turnout" tonight. I called all the churches, and took their numbers, and encouraged them to not give up, and to keep calling and inviting their people to come. I didn't know, even at the last minute, whether the church would be full.
The church was full. And it was powerful.
Now we are used to saying that it doensn't matter how many come. "Wherever two or three are gathered" and all that. And that is true: wherever two or three are gathered, Jesus is present, doing his good work, softening hearts, strengthening the feeble knees and hands.
And yet: Turnout is important. Because some of us know, or are beginning to know, that there is power and there is hope in being together.
The hard work is still ahead. And of course, there are many ways through which we serve.
But "if not us, THEN WHO?"