We celebrated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in worship yesterday. Some of us attended an interfaith event held in Westborough last week, a day of inspiration, service, and connection. 300 people, kids, and adults came together to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, and to consider how we can keep his dream of a just an equitable society alive.
In worship, we read Paul's Letter to the Galatians 3:23-29. Paul writes about distinctions of society at his time and how they no longer apply: we are all one, and we are all free.
How do we live into that, today, with a society that has become even more diverse since the days of Dr. King? It is no longer only "black and white." There are differences in religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, intellectual and physical ability, income, education, age, political affiliation... More and more boxes that we place each other in, and judge each other from.
How do we overcome them?
One big step, I think, is to realize that these boxes exist in our heads and nowhere else. And they exist in our heads because they were placed there, not because we were born with them. Nobody is born with any kind of bias. Bias is taught and learned. So is fear of those who are different. When you put babies of different racial backgrounds together they will interact without any reservation. Do the same exercise with older kids who have not been exposed to people of other races, and they will be curious. As they grow older still they will become skeptical, even fearful or hostile. Because they hear statements of prejudice and bias, and they internalize them.
We can't go back and change the way we were raised. But we can try to overcome the boxes that were put in our heads.
And we can learn from and with our kids.
One of the questions I asked during my sermon yesterday (quoting Rev. Jeffrey Jones) was, "What is God up to?" Because I fully believe that I am not in control of this congregation, or anything for that matter. None of us are. Do we have influence? Yes. Responsibility? Absolutely. Power? To varying degrees. But we are not in control. God is in control. Instead of praying, "God, please do this or that," we might pray, "God, what are you up to? And how do I get on board?"
What does God want for this world? How does God want us to treat each other, and our planet? How can we play a role in God's plan?
We won't know unless we ask.