Guest post by: Rev. Tim Miner OUnI M.Div.
Executive Director of the Council of Interfaith Communities of the United States
Earlier this month I had the chance to mix ministry and my academic training in meteorology at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society. The meeting took place in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. While I was there I had the opportunity to take a short personal pilgrimage to visit a single pulpit. It was a very special moment for me. Let’s talk.
Ebenezer Baptist Church sits at the corner of an economically depressed area on the “other side” of the interstate highway that bisects the city of Atlanta. The church is part of an historic area run by the National Park Service. This area is only a few blocks wide. All 15 acres of this property are devoted to the memory of one single man, a clergyman in fact. This is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
On a very cold morning, I had the chance to enter into Ebenezer Baptist Church and sit alone in its wooden pews. Centered in front of me was a single pulpit. The message from that pulpit still speaks to each and every one of us, especially those of us that have been ordained. If ever it could be said that one single pulpit changed the world, this would be the one.
While his father was the pastor at Ebenezer, Martin Luther King, Jr. received his church’s license to preach at the age of 17 and was ordained at the age of 19. While a seminary student, King preached many times from the very pulpit that was in front of me. As a graduate of a Baptist seminary, I can pretty much guess the themes that rang out in his sermons. What we all know through our history is that this was a true ‘Prophetic Voice’ in action.
From the beginning of human societies and civilizations, people have always sought wisdom from a transcendent place. Shamans, priests, priestesses, judges, elders, and ministers spoke and humans reacted. It has been so to this day. It will be so for quite a while to come. Whether individuals walk a traditional religion or join the growing ranks of the spiritually independents in our society there will always be a need for people with wisdom to speak out for justice, morals and ethics. This is the source of the prophetic voice in our world.
As ordained ministers we have society’s charge to speak with the prophetic voice just as Martin Luther King, Jr. did. What will you do with your prophetic voice? What will you speak out for and against that would make life better, where the love between all people is as fresh and as common as a breath?
If we ended this blog now it would be enough, but I don’t want to leave the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the pulpit. What made his prophetic voice even more powerful was that he then took his words to the street in mystic action. He talked and then he walked. Most importantly, he was willing to sacrifice for the sake of making his voice come true. What are YOU willing to sacrifice for believing in your own prophetic voice?
During the middle of my interfaith seminary program I stood up and asked my classmates, “Who is going to be the first martyr for interfaith?” It was a rhetorical question for sure, but I wanted everyone to realize that spirituality is not a game or hobby. It is an important component of humanity. It has the power to influence and change lives. Taking on the mantle of ordination is NOT a trivial thing. Are you prepared to sacrifice for your prophetic voice? Are you worried about gathering resources or about making a difference? How are you spending your time? These sacrifices in resources and focus can give your prophetic voice the life it deserves.
Today is Valentine’s Day in the United States. This ‘holiday’ is dedicated to the memory of one martyr who spoke up for love and sacrificed his life for it under a cruel Roman emperor. Like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., he talked and then he walked and then he died and the world changed.