I want to begin my column today by thanking all of you who have responded to my first few columns. When I was in active ministry I always preached what I called confessional theology. What I meant by that was that I really preached to myself because I felt my problems, my hopes, my needs were pretty much shared by others. In these columns I will do the same kind of thing and your responses will mean so much to me. They make my day.
I want to share with you today several occurrences which have been very important in my life. The first such occurrence was to have been born in the 20th century. That century was a time of revolution. Revolutions in communication and transportation took place that shrank the world to the size of a neighborhood. But, alas , it was a neighborhood sadly lacking in any genuine feeling of brotherhood or sisterhood. It was a century that demanded that we act out and live out the words, ” Thy kingdom come” or we faced the very real possibility of being blown to kingdom come. It was a century in which we learned that there is no place to hide, much as we might like to find it. In the words of the poet, we learned that “no man is an island and no man lives alone.”
To have been born in the 20th century was to have been part of events like the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Buchenwald, Selma and the other symbols of man’s inhumanity to man and as much as I might like to ignore all of that, I cannot. I was brought up on beautiful phrases: The Four Freedoms. The United Nations. Make the world safe for democracy. I was nourished on them. I believed in them and because I do I cannot live a life of exclusion, only inclusion.
My second fortunate occurrence was to have been born to my particular parents. They were of Welsh stock and a sturdy faith. They were good people in the best sense of that word “good.” They really loved everybody. They taught me the virtues of honesty and fair play. I learned to sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I believed that then so how could I do anything but include, never exclude.
The third great occurrence in my life was to marry the particular woman with whom I was fortunate enough to share my life. My wife taught me so much. She taught me the meaning of unconditional love and demonstrated it to me in her life. She humbled me, and yes, she awed me with her ability to practice something I once thought didn’t even exist, unconditional love.
She taught me the meaning of complete forgiveness. Not only did she teach it, she extended it to me and by that act made our relationship, as far as I was concerned, a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
She taught me the meaning of true happiness and serenity and not only taught it but left its imprint on our family and on our home. With her by my side for 65 years I became a far better person than I ever could have been by myself.
The fourth fortunate occurrence was to have been born in this country. No one who wants to remain exclusive should ever select America as the land of his or her birth. Living here you cannot help but be aware of the breath of freedom. In school I heard such exciting words as “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I believed those words then and I still do.
The fifth fortunate occurrence in my life was choosing the Christian ministry as my career. In that career I was confronted by a man named Jesus. I was forced to face the awesome fact that God loved the world, nothing about it being a black or white or yellow world, just the world. God so loved the world that he gave his son. Or how about these words: “Come unto me, all ye.: All ye who are white? I don’t see that there. All ye who are American? I don’t see that there. All. No exclusions, only breathtaking inclusion