Where I grew up, everybody was pretty much just like me. It was a small, southern community, with a long history, deep roots and consistent Christian morality. The only visible difference was our whiteness or our blackness. Ethically speaking, that’s how we saw everything too: white or black, good or bad.
I remember the day I received my call—follow me and I will make you fish for people. In my case it was a call to ordained ministry. Although my call was more like a slow culmination of events and experiences, there was one dramatic moment in my senior year in high school. It was 1973, just three years after my denomination officially allowed the ordination of women.
After the hectic and holy Christmas season, after the unusual turning of a new century and, wonderfully, a new millennium, the church and the culture will settle back into familiar rhythms. For the church and its calendar, this means the season of Epiphany with its festivals of Magi, miracles, baptism and transfiguration.
Sixteen years old, stubborn to see the world for myself, I embarked on my first reading of the four Gospels. How it struck me to realize that Jesus of Nazareth, the "Lord" of the Lord's Prayer, was not in league with every person or in favor of every value esteemed in my world or my parents' world.
Given current trends in North American Christianity and culture, I can easily imagine a day when a child, seeing a crucifix for the first time and asking her mother what on earth it might be, will receive this answer: "That, my dear, is someone who did not take very good care of himself."