Progressive Revival

One of the many blessings I have been afforded over the years was the opportunity to serve and work for Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

As a white Southerner, this African American Congressman, also of the South, taught me much about putting faith in action… about the true nature and impact of a real faith lived out in the public square… about the courage to do what’s right in the face of harsh circumstances.

Congressman Clyburn was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and, today, he is a leader, the third ranking Member, of the United States Congress.

He teaches and leads, often, through telling stories. He has a cadence in his deep voice that demands attention. If you haven’t had the chance to hear Jim Clyburn tell a story or relate a sermon then you are missing out.

As part of the events this week surrounding the swearing-in of the 111th Congress, House Majority Whip Clyburn delivered the reflection at the Congressional Bipartisan Interfaith Prayer Service at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church.  

Here is what Congressman Clyburn had to say:

“Today, we begin a new chapter in the history of our great nation. For most Americans, this is a time of great hope, but for many it is a time of immense fear and uncertainty.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once admonished ‘That our ultimate measure is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand at times of challenge and controversy.’

“Keeping in mind the earlier scripture readings, I invite your reflections upon a powerful lesson found in the Book of Luke.  A group of adherents are sitting with the Master recounting their experiences and celebrating recent successes when one among them–a young lawyer–smugly asked The Master, ‘What do I need to do to achieve life everlasting?’

“The Master responded by asking him how his readings addressed that question. The young lawyer replied that according to his understanding, ‘One must love the Lord, God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind; and one’s neighbor as oneself.’  The Master replied, ‘That is correct, go live it.’  But, the young lawyer was not satisfied with that answer and pressed for further clarification by asking, ‘Who is my neighbor?’

“The Master replied with a story which most of us are familiar.  You’ll remember that a certain man fell victim to thieves who robbed him and left him for dead.
 First to come upon him was the head of the church, who upon seeing the victim crossed to the other side of the road. Next to come along was a church leader who paused to take a look but continued on his way.  Finally a Samaritan, a good person but of different ethnicity, came upon the wounded traveler.  He stopped, got down off of his donkey, treated the victim’s wounds and nursed him overnight before continuing his journey the next day.

“The Master concluded this lesson by asking the young lawyer who he thought was the unfortunate traveler’s neighbor.  The young lawyer replied, ‘The one who showed compassion.’ And the Master responded, ‘go and do likewise.’

“I draw three morals from this story.  First, being a good neighbor is not defined by one’s faith or church membership.   Second, it is not defined by one’s ethnicity. Third, being a good neighbor sometimes requires that we get down off of our high horse and minister to needs where we find them.

“As we enter this new session of Congress, I would hope that we will reflect upon this lesson, set aside our religious, ethnic and political differences, show real compassion for the hardships of our neighbors, and remember our moral obligations, ‘to the least of these.'”


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