That’s a fairly long title, I know. However, it quite accurately captures where I found myself when Reverend Mary Ann Macklin invited me to share the pulpit at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Bloomington (UUCB) over the Martin Luther King weekend. Of course, I felt honored; there are few privileges more satisfying than having a second invitation. I had found UUCB to be a vibrant, living community when I spoke there two years ago, again at the invitation of Reverend Macklin and my colleagues from the Bloomington Center for Connection. But the King weekend was a challenge. First, there was the proverbial challenge of “preaching to the choir”. Anyone who steps inside UUCB can immediately feel their commitment to living justice. Then there was my slightly skeptical take on what typically passes for MLK celebrations: sanitized narratives about once-a-year heroes, obligatory gospel concerts, and perhaps a little bit of Kumbaya.
This invitation I knew was different. This invitation was a challenge to walk with a community congregation for whom everyday justice is holy: a congregation that welcomes people of all ethnic, cultural, or religious backgrounds-all people, no matter whom or how they love. With those thoughts in mind, it could have been the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Anxiety that led me to the ponder the mysteries of the Garden of Eden, no so much as some ancient archaeological location, but as a place we all inhabit every day, with our vulnerabilities, our racialized fears, and isolating shame. Where does the evil of racism lurk in our gardens? How do we move out of the dis-ease of culturally sacralized racism toward authentic connection? What fig leaves of identity must we shed to move toward the burning bush: the fire that calls us to become catalysts and co-creators of Beloved Community?
With gratitude to Ned Joyner at UUCB and to my familial community – Bill Larkin, Angela Shenk, and Walker Sands – I can now invite you to share in this walk From the Fig Leaf to the Burning Bush. I invite you to listen and walk with us.
As always, I feel blessed by our shared connection.