[Federal District Judge J. Phil Gilbert invited me to provide an Invocation for the Naturalization Ceremony that he conducted at the Lesar Law School on April 27, 2017. Judge Gilbert is also a member of the SIU Board of Trustees. I find that Invocations are tricky performances, and never more so than at a Naturalization ceremony during which 49 people from about 20 countries pronounced the Oath of Naturalization. It has frustrated me for a very long time that many who are called to pronounce an Invocation are either unable or unwilling to be truly ecumenical in their prayers, expressing, sometimes, a denominationalism that might be exclusionary more than it is inviting. Each presenter must be allowed the benefit of their sincerity, their desire to give witness to their faith. And I find myself being tolerant, even when I cannot be personally engaged in the sentiment being offered to the assembly. What follows is my effort to be embracing of the moment and the community. The ceremony touched my heart in unexpected ways, and the power of the joy radiated in all directions. I was proud to be a part of this ceremony. And I am grateful that the ceremony will now be a part of me. The quoted passages from Martin Luther King, Jr., are taken from Strength to Love – a book that is the subject of an early entry of The Sankofa Muse.]
From the thoughts of Martin Luther King, Jr., we are told that “fear is mastered by faith.”
And so it is.
Fear of the hunger that steals the lives of our children and breaks the bones of our elders.
Fear that causes the oceans to swell and drown the innocent and that causes bombs to rain down
on the just and unjust, alike.
Fear is mastered by faith.
Out of the darkness, there is a light. And we were told this in the soothing whispers that blessed us at our birth.
Out of the screaming chaos of the midnight nightmares, there is a song that only the heart has ever heard.
Faith. What have we held onto, in darkness, storm and doubt? That the horizon is defined by God,
and by God alone.
That our ancestors, who dreamed of us in their fevered times, knew that we would complete the journey that they could never make.
They told us, “Call upon the light. The light, the light that will guide you. From here, to everywhere. Seek and find, and know that seeking the light itself is where faith takes root. You must believe in light,” they said.
King also tell us: “We are consoled that God has two lights: a light to guide us in the brightness of the day when hopes are fulfilled and circumstances are favorable, and a light to guide us in the darkness of the midnight when we are thwarted and the slumbering giants of gloom and hopelessness rise in our souls.”
And I call upon light. I name us, “Light bearers.” Let us rejoice that we are here. Each bringing his and her light; each murmuring a “yes” to be part of the song of faith. Let us continue to be the light that others hunger for.
Let us be the beginning that we have long sought, the beginning that will make this world forever new.