Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering Martin King

I've waited too late into the evening to start into a post, so just a couple of short notes as this year's MLK, Jr. holiday comes to a quiet close...

  • U2, their Unforgettable Fire album (famous for it's song about Martin's martyrdom, another titled "MLK," and still others touching on American culture), and their song "40," from the War album, have been on my mind and heart the last few days thanks to a confluence of things. Last Sunday night U2 won the Golden Globe award for best new song written for a movie in 2013 - or something thereabouts - for "Ordinary Love," written for the Nelson Mandela biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (note to self: don't forget to go see this movie). It seems the song's now been nominated in a similar category for the Oscar. Kudos to the boys from Dublin for this. Though the song doesn't exactly thrill, and I confess I heard none of the competition, I'm nonetheless thankful for their continuing attention to the project of holding up the life and work of Nelson Mandela, and in particular the way their fame could/should continue to spread the amazing story of 'Madiba' and inspire new generations of folks to extend and defend human rights and pursue reconciliation.

    Possibly at the exact time the Golden Globes were being awarded, rather than watching, I - the TV-less priest - was reconnecting ye olde turntable for the first time in over a year and subsequently digging around in the LPs, CDs and DVDs stacked in a corner of the den. My beautiful deluxe, box-set edition of The Unforgettable Fire, with CDs and DVDs, emerged from that treasure hunt, the outtakes CD ending up in the regular rotation later in the week.

    As if U2 back in the news (and don't forget there's a new album due within a couple months), and a week of nostalgia for the album that truly led to my love-affair with the lads from Dublin weren't enough, at the end of the week I opened the lectionary to prepare for Sunday's sermon (2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A) and discovered the appointed Psalm was . . . you guessed it: 40. It should come as no surprise then - right? - that my first-ever sermon on that particular Psalm text, and even moreso my first-ever solo singing in a sermon, happened this past Sunday, 18 January. It was a real delight - especially the second time around, when it all came off much smoother - to tell the story of my first U2 show, at Atlanta's OMNI arena on 29 April 1985. To tell the story not so much of hearing "In the Name of Love" sung in Atlanta & dedicated appropriately by Bono - a moving moment in it's own right - but instead to tell how the crowd continued to "sing a new song," to sing over and over the closing chorus of "40" after the lights came up, as we filed out of the OMNI, as we filed into the MARTA station, and yes, even after the train left the station. It was a magical night. I hope I never quite forget the feelings of unity and tranquility, in and with such a huge crowd of rapt listeners / worshippers, that I experienced that night as a 16-year-old. I'm thankful this past week gave me an opportunity to remember it, and the lectionary gave me the perfect opportunity to tell that story for the first time publicly, using it as a springboard for the question: What might it look like for us in the Church to sing a new song, such that the world will see - as it did at the first Epiphany - not so much who we are, as who God is, who Christ is, through us, through our presence and work in the the world.

    One more, shorter, MLK-related story tomorrow!