As our Call to Worship tonight as we think about All Saints Day and those that have inspired us in faith I want to refelct on Rosa Parks who died last week by reading some reflections I came across about her life
When a seamstress sat down on a bus in Montgomery, she was just going about her daily routine. She was not born into royalty. She was not classical in terms of blue blood. She was an ordinary person on an ordinary mission about to do an extraordinary thing. She sat down in a vacant seat that tradition and law had reserved for whites, and when the bus driver told her to get up, she didn’t get up. She sat down and a whole race of people rose up.
On that solitary day, who could have thought that her one act of moral defiance would usher in what history knows as the greatest movement on these soils—the Civil Rights Movement that not only blessed African Americans, but has literally blessed the whole world when you consider that Nelson Mandela and others caught the same wind.
She sat down and the world is still reverberating. She sat down and a man wound up in Oslo, Norway, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize
You think your solitary act does not make a difference, but she sat down. And I’m in this pulpit today because of the wind that began to blow. When God is in a thing, you don’t have to have an army or a navy; you don’t have to have bullets and guns. There is power, Holy Ghost power, in the name of Jesus!
Another Angle: based on an article by Paul Loeb
…the story’s standard rendition and one repeated even in many of her obituaries–stripped the Montgomery boycott of all of its context. Before refusing to give up her bus seat, Parks had been active for twelve years in the local NAACP chapter, serving as its secretary. The summer before her arrest, she’d had attended a ten-day training session at Tennessee’s labor and civil rights organizing school, the Highlander Center, where she’d met an older generation of civil rights activists, like South Carolina teacher Septima Clark, and discussed the recent Supreme Court decision banning “separate-but-equal” schools. During this period of involvement and education, Parks had become familiar with previous challenges to segregation: Another Montgomery bus boycott, fifty years earlier, successfully eased some restrictions; a bus boycott in Baton Rouge won limited gains two years before Parks was arrested; and the previous spring, a young Montgomery woman had also refused to move to the back of the bus, causing the NAACP to consider a legal challenge until it turned out that she was unmarried and pregnant, and therefore a poor symbol for a campaign.
In short, Rosa Parks didn’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision. She didn’t single-handedly give birth to the civil rights efforts, but she was part of an existing movement for change, at a time when success was far from certain.
Without the often lonely work of people ….. Parks would likely have never taken her stand, and if she had, it would never have had the same impact.
This in no way diminishes the power and historical importance of Parks’s refusal to give up her seat. But it reminds us that this tremendously consequential act, along with everything that followed, depended on all the humble and frustrating work that Parks and others undertook earlier on. It also reminds us that Parks’s initial step of getting involved was just as courageous and critical as the stand on the bus that all of us have heard about.
This invitation to worship is a call to look at the reasons why you have chosen to be here tonight. Urban Seed church shapes everything it does according to the goal of ‘sustaining and resourcing Christian spirituality in the world’. Celebrating Rosa Parks, or any “saint” can easily create a standard so impossible to meet, it may actually make it harder for us to get involved, inadvertently removing away Parks’s most powerful lessons of hope.
Urban Seed: church is not about social activists coming out of nowhere, to suddenly take dramatic stands. We usually dont act with the greatest impact when we act alone,and change rarely occurs instantly, but is built on longterm, often-invisible actions. It’s not about being a larger-than-life figure–someone with more time, energy, courage, vision, or knowledge than any normal person could ever possess.
Our readings tonight will remind us to stay awake. Awake to the real ways that God uses to change us and the world. Rosa stood in a strong black church tradition of people who gathered to worship around stories of liberation, who prayed for themselves and others, who built community and connection with each other, who learnt the skills and developed the character required to live the story in the world. No matter how big or small this group is, no matter how you’re feeling at the moment our worship is about sustaining us in the struggle and the little things we do each day and together to keep hope alive.
Let this gathering be such a moment and let’s worship God by singing the words of United Mine Workers in the song Step by Step
Step by Step the longest march,
Can be won, Can be won.
Many stones can form and arch,
Singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will,
Can be accomplished still.
Drops of water turn a mill,
Singly none, singly none.