Reflection: "Send me!"
This past week the marchers from America's Journey for Justice stopped in Augusta for several nights of Teach-Ins open to the public. Several of our members participated and also marched during the day along the route.
I was honored to be asked to make these closing remarks on Sunday night, August 23rd:
This past week I have been reflecting on this verse from the Scriptures: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!' -Is. 6:8
One of my favorite hymns as a teenager was “Here I Am, Lord.” Its first verse is the voice of God saying
“I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?”
And the chorus is the voice of Isaiah, saying
“Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.”
A young Jesuit priest, Dan Schutte, wrote this song for a friend who was being ordained. He had “always loved this passage where God calls Isaiah to be his servant and messenger to the people”, and Isaiah responds with both hesitation and doubt, but also with a humble willingness to surrender to God. If it was going to work, it would have to be God's power and grace making it happen.” http://www.danschutte.com/PDF_Files/The_Story_of_Here_I_Am_Lord.pdf
You, the marchers of Journey for Justice, might have heard that voice calling you in the night. And you might also have had some doubt, some hesitation…but you have come this far, and your belief in what is right and just has kept you on the road. “I will go Lord, if you lead me, I will hold your people in my heart.”
For sure you are holding your people in your heart, the people of these United States, who see you as voicing the call to protect every American’s right to a “fair criminal justice system, uncorrupted and unfettered access to the ballot box, sustainable jobs with a living wage, and equitable public education”. (www.naacp.org)
If you read on in the book of Isaiah, you’ll find that “God is asking Isaiah to preach to his own country and that they will not even listen to him”. And some of you may feel that way tonight, that your country is not listening to your call for justice; but let me remind you of two men who answered the call for justice. The first, Rev. James Reeb, was a Unitarian Universalist minister who answered the call from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to come to Selma after the violent march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in the spring of 1965. He had a young family, he had rewarding work in his congregation in Massachusetts, but he heard the voice calling him to go. He died for that call, beaten on the streets of Selma by a group of white men with clubs.
"Here I am, send me!"
Another man who, every day, answered the call for justice as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia Senate, as a leader of the N.A.A.C.P. and the Southern Poverty Law Center, as a climate-change activist and an advocate for marriage equality, was Julian Bond, who died earlier this month.
In March of 1960, he helped draft an article called “An Appeal for Human Rights,” and it included this phrase: “Today’s youth will not sit by submissively while being denied all the rights and privileges and joys of life.” He was only 20 years old when he wrote that, and that same year he co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coördinating Committee. Five years later in 1965 he was elected to the Ga House of Representatives, but they refused to seat him until 1967 because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/postscript-julian-bond-1940-2015-2?mbid=nl_081815_Daily_Photo&CNDID=21225413&spMailingID=7995627&spUserID=Mjc5MDQ2MzQyMDIS1&spJobID=742228544&spReportId=NzQyMjI4NTQ0S0)
So when you are marching in the days to come, and your feet are aching, and it’s hot and humid down here in the South, you might question that call that came to you to commit to this historic march. But turn your thoughts to those three men, the prophet Isaiah, Rev. James Reeb, and Julian Bond, centuries apart, civilizations apart, but each of whom held his people in his heart, each of whom answered the call to work for justice, for equality, each of whom said, “Here I am, send me!”
We pray today for the courage to step up to doing God’s work, in the name of all that is holy, Amen.
Rev. Dr. Gaye W. Ortiz, 8-23-2015