Monday, November 3, 2014
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
The quote above is an absolute must for missionaries. Dr. King had so many great quotes that have guided me during my life. One of my favorites is, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.” I have used an actual ladder in the church when I was preaching on faith and used this quote as the meat of the sermon. I am bringing this up because yesterday I talked about my rather tenuous connection to John Wesley. I never met Dr. King, but as Karen and I were very active in the civil rights movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s, we were always aware of what he believed and what he died defending. I had no way of knowing back then that in 1988, I would be attending the same seminary that he did. The picture at the right is of Marsh Chapel where he preached as a student and where I preached as a student. The sculpture in the forecourt is an explosion of doves called the “Free At Last” memorial to Dr. King. He received his doctorate at Boston University School of Theology which was the first school in the nation to grant a Ph.D. to an African-American. His professor of social ethics was Dr. Walter Muelder, to whom he gave credit for inspiring his non-violent approach to change (in Dr. King’s book “Stride Toward Freedom”). Dr. Muelder was also my professor of social ethics thirty years later. I had a triple major in Theology, Philosophy, and Ethics, and thus had Dr. Muelder for several courses. We became friends during my time there, and when I graduated in 1992 in Marsh Chapel, it was Dr. Muelder who draped my Master’s hood over my head. He passed away some time ago, but he used to quote Dr. King as well. I remember once I was really angry at someone long forgotten but the quote Dr. Muelder used to calm me down was one of Dr. King’s, “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” I have lived by that ever since. God guided me to Boston University using Marsh Chapel as His burning bush for me. I had been offered full scholarships from Harvard Divinity School and from Boston University. I was at the school trying to decide where to go and went into Marsh Chapel to sit quietly and listen to God. While I was sitting there, alone in the quiet, the organist came in to practice. He turned on the huge organ and played Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” which is one of my favorite pieces of all time. Disney used it in “Fantasia.” After the organist played it, he closed up the organ and left. I looked up and told God that I had gotten the message—Boston University it would be. I have never regretted that decision and the four years I spent there learning, teaching, and pastoring a church are among the very best years of my life. Marsh Chapel will always hold a special place in my heart, as will Dr. Muelder and Dr. King.