Robert Kennedy was campaigning for the Presidency when he stepped off the plane to make a speech and was told that Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated. He didn’t need someone to tell him what to say. He remembered the words of his favorite poem by the ancient Greek dramatist, Aeschylus:
“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
Awe is religious awareness. It’s beyond words. It combines a sense of reverence, respect and wonder with feelings of humility—a kind of smallness in the face of overwhelming positive power. It’s not a smallness that diminishes the individual. On the contrary, it uplifts.
The 20th anniversary celebration last Sunday was uplifting. Awesome. Many hands went into it, and I want to express my sincere sense of appreciation. A simple thank you doesn’t seem adequate, until I remind myself that I don’t have to have all the words. I do have the feeling, and I trust you to understand the depths out of which that simple thank you comes. You are appreciated.
During 35 years of ministry, 20 of which have been with you, I’ve come to understand and to appreciate that the central ingredient to this ministry-making mix is trust.
You brought my dear friend and long-time colleague, Herb Adams, to the pulpit–that was a wonderful gift. You brought yourself—that was a gift. Many who couldn’t be here on Sunday sent a note—that was a gift. Carlyn played the prelude—that was a cello gift. Erik sang, and Andy sang, and the women’s choir sang—each was a gift. Several spoke their gift.
Whitman’s words were ringing in my heart: “I can repeat over to men and women: You have done such good to me, I would do the same to you.”
Wisdom comes slowly–painfully slowly. It doesn’t come because of the pain—it’s possible to have a lot of pain without much increase in wisdom. But some pain is exquisite, drawing tiny grains of wisdom up from the ocean depths of day-to-day living, and carrying them to the surface we call our awareness.
Herb and I were able to watch together as the Boston Red Sox won the first two games of the world series, bringing such simple pleasure—the joy of two long-time Sox fans who happen to be dear friends, sitting quietly with one another, with an occasional cheer mixed with anxiety over the errors.
I look forward to many more years together, cheering for the Red Sox and bringing some cheer to one another, and an increase in wisdom. Thank you, and take care.