This past Monday — the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — in a recitation entitled “Two Voices,” Arielle Thomas, Emily Garcia and Romell Bryant challenged the crowd that had gathered for the day’s Convocation, saying “We’ve found our voice! Find yours!” The implication that was obvious to all was this: “Once you’ve found it, use it!”
It’s a fitting calling for us who share life on a university campus. The educational endeavor is one of equipping and empowering, with the knowledge, wisdom and skills to do something of value, knowing one’s self, knowing one’s neighbor and the world, knowing how things work and why they don’t. This is a sort of finding of one’s voice. It’s an identification of one’s gifts and skills, one’s place in human society and the created world. It’s an identification of one’s sphere of influence.
The question then is, once we’ve found our voices, what do we do with them?
At Valpo, the answer is ever before us. We use our voice (and all of our other assets) in the service of our neighbor. It’s that straight-forward. Any other use — self-protection, self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, self-absorbed entertainment — is, at best, a distraction; at worst, a betrayal of our neighbor.
This may seem to be an unreasonable demand. After all, where is self-care? Where is one’s fair share?
Even if what I’m writing here is true, how can one possibly make it happen in any consistent way? All of us fall short of this goal, we become fearful and self-centered. We resent the intrusion on our security that our neighbor represents as if we could gather up enough on our own. The economy of mutual service comes under threat when we are tempted to disengage from it.
The Christian gospel describes God’s response to this fearful selfishness. Confronted by a humanity that risks only being able to take for themselves and fear their neighbor, God becomes present as our neighbor in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, one who seems to bring nothing with him. He’s from a nothing town and he has no money. But he brings with himself the one true voice. He is the Word of God, the voice that is the foundation of all that is.
This voice, found among us, uses up itself for the sake of the whole creation. He uses himself up for your sake and calls you, with his voice, beloved. Jesus speaks his words of truth, that you are forgiven and have meaning and purpose in this life, to serve you. It’s just the way he is.
And for that, we use our voices to sing his praises and serve our neighbor so that they might also give glory to God in thankfulness for all that has been given, including a voice to be raised.
Jan. 17, 2018
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as one of our university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.