Something happened yesterday at St. Anne's Homeless Shelter that had to do with cooking, serving food, and whether that would happen or not on that day. That got my MOM to thinking about Me's and We's. When she got home she talked about the situation with me and here is how we see things. Of course I will pepper this message with some random photos.
The gospel is not a tablet of ink, but a table of food, around which everyone is invited to sit down together and eat, drink and dream, for tomorrow we act.
A few weeks ago we marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. The power of that proclamation, the timely words of one man spoken at the one right moment provided the “tipping point” for the civil rights movement and for decades of legal and social changes to come. The power of one man, at one moment, the potency of that one speech, was a beacon of change and hope for the nation and the entire world.
But did you know it almost didn’t happen. King was determined to keep his remarks brief that day. At the end of nine minutes King was done with his script and the crowd was still waiting for . . . something.
Then from behind him came a stage-whispering voice. It was the magnificent, soul-stirring voice of the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Like a kid tugging on a parent’s coattails, Jackson leaned forward and urged Dr. King to “go on,” to keep talking. “Tell them about your dream, Martin,” her voice insisted. “Tell them about your dream.”
So King did. He went off-script and climbed into history as he spoke from his heart and soul. King’s “dream” became the dream and desire of generations to come. Jackson's one voice told Martin to “change his plan.” Martin’s one voice then told the people to “change the world.” One speech changed the world. One person changed the world
By the mid-twentieth century the tide of individualism had surged to a tsunami — so much so that it submerged much of the force and focus of community. The “me” overwhelmed the “we.” The needs and wants of the individual outweighed any communal demands or designs. And we went from individualism to rugged individualism to narcissism and from narcissism to the step beyond narcissism: solipsism (think Charlie Sheen).
Ironically the technological advances of the last few years that have made it possible for any one person with “google-ability” to give their “one voice,” their stand-alone status more of a reality than ever before, it has also re-opened the door to community. The “Me” is now rediscovering the “We.” And the power of One to do good or evil has never been greater.
Of course now we call “WE” by something different: “Social Networking.” Think about it. Still highly individualized, every new device, every new app, or every new download all have a communal connection. E-mails, tweets, blogs, texts, skyping, they all keep us more closely in community with people we know well and with people we don’t know at all.
How the “We” and “Me” come together in the Scriptures is that people are different, they have different gifts and different functions, but all are exercised to build up the body of Christ. The community of faith does not lessen the person to the community nor the community to the individual.
If we are always together or always apart, there is no music. It's the moving in and out of separateness and togetherness that makes the music.
I began with the ME/WE story of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Let me end with another ME/WE story to the biggest one-time gift in the history of US philanthropy: the 1.7 billion dollar gift of Joan Kroc, the wife of the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, to the Salvation Army.
When Joan was a small child, her father abandoned the family and left her mother to figure out how to feed the family. In Joan’s memory, these were difficult, dark days. But she remembers one beacon of light in the midst of those difficult times. Every Friday night an officer from the downtown Salvation Army would visit their inner-city home, carrying in his arms two bags of groceries. Sometimes he would come in and play with the kids, giving them a father figure to relate to as well. Without that one Salvation Army officer showing up with those groceries, she doesn’t know how they would have made it each week.
So when it came to decide how best to invest the billions left her by her husband, she remembered that Salvation Army officer and his faithfulness to a needy family. And before she died she handed a billion dollar check to Salvation Army General Linda Bond. Today we are seeing in the poorest parts of towns beautiful “Kroc Centers” going up to bring health and happiness to needy kids because of one person who was faithful to his mission.
By the way, when that Salvation Army officer died, he had no idea what he had done. When that Salvation Army officer died, he thought he had just had an ordinary ministry and been an ordinary officer. He didn’t think he had done anything special.
Sometimes the greatest blessings of your life you will never know about. Sometimes the greatest impact of your life will not be revealed in your lifetime. Sometimes your faithfulness will bear fruit long after you and I are gone.
It’s not about recognition and reward. It’s only about serving Jesus as an individual ME in the context of a communal WE.