Nationally we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. today. In the church calendar this celebration falls on April 4th, the day he was murdered. This national holiday has a different tone and tenor about it this year. I sense a wide degree of joy and optimism and hope. Perhaps this is an inside the beltway phenomenon, but I hope that is incorrect. In this city, the Nation's Capital, there is degree of hospitality, of hopeful wonderment, a politeness that is not often experienced in the hustle and bustle that is this hub of politics.
There are people who are not happy about President-Elect Obama's election, I know some of them. Nevertheless, I believe that even these people recognize the historic importance of this time in our nation's history. A man of mixed racial background, who identifies himself as black, is about to take on the mantle of the most powerful and visible job in the world. He brings with him the hopes and aspirations of millions of people. I believe all of us, whether we voted for this individual or not, want him to succeed, need him to help us find a way out of the morass we have become mired in: economically, socially and militarily.
We have a happy accident with the Gospel assigned for today. Mark provides the account of Jesus' naming of the 12 apostles right after a great multitude had followed Jesus from Galilee, as well as from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea and from the region of Tyre and Sidon. We hear all of these names: Simon (Peter), James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddaeus, Simon.....and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. All of the Gospels do this, name Judas the betrayer from the very beginning. I have often wondered if all of us, no matter who we are, have a bit of Judas in us - a bit of the betrayer in us. I have often thought that part of what Judas represents is a depiction of our lesser selves, a selfishness that takes us away from the whole.
We all need to pray, no matter our political, moral or religious beliefs, for success: of the new Congress, the new administration officials, the new Vice President, the new President. Hope can be a challenging thing to sustain. When those hopeful dreams become less than what we had imagined them to be, or different from what we thought, our lesser selves can try and grab control of the stage. Our prayers of support for successful leadership will help control those Judas moments from overwhelming us. Those prayers will help us be patient and open to something different, to change.
Change means just that: the unexpected, something new, something yet untried. Being in those uncharted waters can be frightening and can bring us to reaction as opposed to patience and openness, to our lesser selves as opposed to our better selves. Jesus was a change agent, not one to be easily categorized. Change does not mean stability, it means doing and being involved with something new, unknown. People resisted Jesus, the original change agent. People are still, 2000 years later, categorizing and freezing in time, this change agent, which is the true definition of oxymoronic. Change means things are going to be different: a scary place to be. There is no better time to pray then when we are in these uncharted waters.
Pray for our country, pray for our leaders, pray for soon-to-be President Obama and Vice President Biden, their families and friends. Pray to accept change and to keep the Judas at bay.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.