Monday, October 31, 2005

Rosa Parks

When I was growing up in Alabama, her name was spoken with the same kind of contempt and hatred one would use when uttering a profanity.

For some, it was because she was a woman who did not know her place. For others, it was because she was a black person who did not know her place. For many, it was because she was the one who 'started' all the trouble that plagued the state and the nation. And for just about every one around me, it was because of all three that her name was anathema.

We'll never really know if her feet hurt so much that she couldn't take another step. But we can be certain that her soul ached from years of the pain of people looking down at her because of the color of her skin.

She may not have been so physically tired that she could lift herself from that seat in the front of the bus. But there is no doubt that her heart was weary from all the names she had been called since she was born.

While she could have simply acquiesced to the request to give her seat to a white man (even though the seats on either side of her were empty; but then no white could be seen sitting next to a black person), she simply refused to move . . .

. . . causing a seismic shift in America by her simple act of courage.

This past weekend, the body of Rosa Parks was viewed by thousands in Montgomery, Alabama, where the civil rights movement began. The descendents of her spirit, black and white, came to honor her courage, her character, her witness.

For this former "cuss word" is now the by-word for justice, for hope, for action throughout the world.

And today, her body lies in the Rotunda of the nation's Capitol building, the first woman to be so honored, because she honored us with her grace, her wisdom, her gentleness.

How appropriate that yesterday's Gospel reading contained these words: 'The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.' (Matthew 23:11-12)

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I am not sure how it happens, though it seems to take place either at night, while I am sleeping, or during the day, while I am away from the house. But whenever, and however, they reproduce themselves over and over and over.


I bundle up all the clothes-less ones in my closet, and take them to the cleaners to be recycled, and by the time I get home that evening, my closet is overflowing once again. I take them down to the basement, so we can re-use them after doing laundry, and they tip-toe back upstairs in the dead of night.

Just like my prayers.

I go through my list of people I pray for, and by the time I am done, it is time to pray for them all over again. I cross one name off the list because the person has been released from the hospital, and three more calls come into the church about folks. I can stop praying for so-and-so since they have found a new job, and what's-her-name calls to tell me of troubles in the family. I just get through lifting up those who were devastated by Katrina and Rita, and the news comes on about the earthquake in Pakistan and India.

The needs, the hurts, the losses, the hopes, the dreams, the failures - whether it's at night while I am sleeping, or during the day when I am away from the church, they reproduce themselves over and over and over. It doesn't matter how often I try to recycle them, or store them in the basement of my soul. They just keep tip-toeing back into my life.

What's a person to do?

I guess I will keep hanging my prayers on that Rod who comforts us,who hears us, who heals us, who struggles with us, who suffers with us, who is always with us.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, October 09, 2005



That's how I feel about being a Christian this week. Embarassed by the comments of evangelists and mega-church preachers who are going around claiming that Hurricane Katrina is God's punishment on that "sinful" city called New Orleans. Seems there was an 'unholy trinity' operating down there, comprised of satanists, voodoo worshipers, and homosexuals, according to these folks. I want to ask these folks, 'haven't you ever read Hosea 11:8-9; or Matthew 7:1-5?'

It's embarassing, and frustrating.

Frustrating that these are the folks who get quoted by the media, and not the preachers who are talking about compassion, about grace, about the opportunities we have to minister to those in need, just as God asks us. They don't interview the folks in those churches that continue to serve as shelters for the refugees from Katrina. They won't show the father in my congregation who has gone through Red Cross Disaster training, and who is leaving tomorrow for three weeks of service in Baton Rouge. They won't feature the youth groups, the ministries, the laity who are out there every day, cleaning and rebuilding and serving meals and mending lives.

It's embarassing and frustrating.

And I can only begin to imagine how God must feel . . .

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman