One of my summer reads was Jon Meacham's, "His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope." My wife read it first and our interest peeked after watching Lewis' funeral in the summer of 2022. Meacham is a good writer, and he doesn't attempt to give us every detail of Lewis' life - rather he focuses on specific time periods (including shortly before his death) to illustrate the power of faith and the courage of conviction. And how, held together, these forces worked in Lewis to bring about change in our country.
It is a book about our history, some of which I knew from when I lived in Nashville, TN and attended Vanderbilt Divinity School. Many of the faith leaders who formed Lewis studied at the same campus I did. And yet you can't read a book like this without thinking about its application to our lives today. Lewis' faith is a central part of the story and how it shaped his view of justice and motivated and sustained him in his life's work. It also paints a powerful picture of how movements span generations. One group forming the next and new leaders emerge.
It led Meagan and me to ask our elders about how they experienced the civil rights movement and what role (if any) they played in it. Those conversations created space to hear from others about their own sense of what was left undone, and to have conversations about how we continue to go forward together. Lewis himself wrote the afterword, in which he says, "We the People are not a united people right now. We rarely are, but our divisions and our tribalism are especially acute. Many Americans have lost faith in the idea that what binds us together is more important than what separates us. Now as before, we have to choose, as Dr. King once put it, between community and chaos."
I believe that Christians have a powerful and important role to play in this work. That's why we're starting a sermon series Sunday to invite everyone together to reflect on that. We're joining with other churches to talk about how we can, "BE Just. Kind. Humble." We'll have yard signs you can pick up after worship or car clings we'll send you if you worship online. There's even a daily devotional (visit stlukesumc.com/be to get yours or grab a paper copy on the tables outside of the worship spaces). You might not think of yourself as a yard sign person, but any of these steps can create room for conversations. Not for us all to agree, but for us to treat one another the way we hope to be treated. Sounds a little like Jesus.
Lewis' funeral was unique because during the pandemic it brought our family together. People who vote differently, people of different generations, even past presidents of different political parties. It felt like a sign of hope and a call to action. Lewis was a man of deep faith, who lived that faith in a way that helped move our country forward. I hope that the same will be said of us.