A trip to Greensboro this week was the blessing that could not be foreseen. ‘Come Sunday’ Dr. Dorothy Harris and I pressed our way to St. Matthews, first to find that as we believed that we were late arriving at 10:30am, to discover that Morning Worship was still at the Eleven ’OClock hour. God had ordained our arrival… early! As I sat taking in the Sanctuary, I am bathing in the architecture of a 360 degree ‘Nave’; that one where every one faces the Alter sitting in the center of the Sanctuary. I took the moment of “Guests stand and say a word” to get my “Testimony” in. “It was over 30 years ago that I first stepped foot in St. Matthews. After starting the Belles of Harmony Gospel Choir at Bennett, this was one of the first off-campus Concert appointments we made.” Now to hear the Pastor look to me saying “I remember you Rev. Woods. When you were at Bennett I was singing in the Choir at Union Memorial!”
In this space I recall the Annual Revivals at St. Stephen’s where Rev. George Gay had made Dr. Dot Harris the first woman to serve on the Board of Trustees. With fond memories I re-live the ‘spiritual awakening’ we received nightly, every year, as we ‘pressed our way’ to St. Stephens ‘early enough to get a seat’ in what proved to be a ‘shaken together and running over revival’. Jeremiah Wright was in town! Anyone who has ever experienced the ‘very right and reverend’ Dr. Jeremiah Wright in the preaching context is very clear about his ‘persecutions’ or maybe ‘crucifixion? as the Chicago Pastor of Barack Obama. This calling, as he is bold enough in his struggle to fulfill, was given in his ‘birthright’. I give continuous praise, prayer and thanksgiving to God for the path given to encounter ‘this messenger’ …in Greensboro… a very ‘rare breed of Man of God’.
A “Faith Break” here lies in the writings of Paul Tillich. He writes a message that he entitles— ‘Our Ultimate Concern’ for which he takes the text Luke 10:38-42. It is published in ‘The New Being’.
Mary and Martha, he proposes, become the symbol for two possible attitudes towards life. “Martha is concerned about many things, but all of them are finite, preliminary, transitory. Mary is concerned about one thing, which is infinite, ultimate, lasting.”
Concern means involvement. Concern requires a ‘part of us in it’. At best concern has ‘our heart in it’. Martha’s heart was as fully in to ‘her distraction’ as Mary’s heart was in her ‘body bowed listening to Jesus’. Concern is often identified with anxiety. When we become concerned the ‘adrenaline flows’. There is even a bit of (self) ‘righteous indignation’ when ‘we be’ concerned. “Concern,” Tillich states, “provokes compassion or horror.”
Worried, involved, engrossed, obsessed, passionate, feverish, preoccupied. Troubled, anxious, absorbed, prepossessed, perturbed, ardent, engaged, distracted, fervent. Caring, attentive, altruistic, benevolent, kindhearted, charitable, humanitarian, noble, philanthropical. Interrogative, inquisitorial, questioning, embraced, encompassed, incorporated, appertained. Embroiled, entangled, implicated, ensnared, discomforted, unsettled, agitated, derailed. What, why AND HOW are you concerned? How self serving OR Ultimate is your… concern?
Important to quote, even in length, is this statement. Tillich writes, “Every concern is tyrannical and wants our whole heart and our whole mind and our whole strength. Every concern tries to become our ultimate concern, our god. The concern about our work often succeeds in becoming our god, as does the concern about another human being, or about pleasure. The concern about science has succeeded in becoming the god of a whole era in history, the concern about money has become an even more important god, and the concern about the nation the most important god of all.”
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