The Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, Mr. Frank Scott, Jr., is an excellent orator. If you get an opportunity to hear him speak, take it. He is a former minister and the son of a Baptist preacher … need I say more?
The Mayor was kind enough to accept our guest speaker invitation to the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s Thanksgiving service. When he took the lectern (podium), he confessed of being a little nervous. If he was, you couldn’t tell. He is a large, intelligent man, with a commanding voice and wide, deep, searching eyes, who uses few notes and expounds from memory and the heart.
Of course, his homily (sermon) was on being thankful, which we all are. But he went four steps further as he quoted scripture from Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless and plead for the widow.”
Learn to do Good:
He pointed out that most of us in the Cathedral that day were born of privilege, what I call members of the “lucky sperm club”. He commended and assumed that we’re all good at recognizing our fortuities and making our gratitude list when we pray. But he went on to say that’s not enough. That our blessed life holds a responsibility to pay it forward by practicing good works. It is the 10,000-hour rule: the more you do it the better you get at it.
Be fair in all your doings. Don’t look away. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Basically, love thy neighbor as thyself.
Rebuke the Oppressor:
This one really spoke to me. Are you standing on the sideline? Are you afraid to speak the truth about what is right and moral?
Defend the fatherless and plead for the widow:
Unlike today, when this passage was written, children and women needed a man to survive. When you hear about King Solomon’s 1000 wives, it speaks to how many mouths he fed and cared for. In today’s terms “Defend the fatherless and plead for the widow” simply means help the needy.
The Mayor is right, of course. I thought of my son in Ohio. For the past few weeks, we’ve been texting each other ten things in a daily gratitude list. My ten are single words with a theme. Yesterday they were words that started with “T” for Thanksgiving i.e. trees, tea, television … Though this practice is uplifting and a nice reminder of the things we take for granted, I now know that it is not enough. Oh, gone are the days of my blissfulness ignorance.