Jimmy Carter

For nearly 50 years Law Day was one of the traditions of the University of Georgia. Randall Balmer, journalist for the Hartford Courant, described it as “an occasion to honor student achievements as well as to invite distinguished guests, ranging from Supreme Court justices and attorneys general to cabinet members and politicians of national stature.”  The last Law Day was on March 31, 2000.

The featured speaker of Law Day in 1974 was Edward M. Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts. A couple of hours after Kennedy’s keynote address, Jimmy Carter, the governor of  Georgia, addressed the group. His lecture on justice upstaged Sen. Kennedy who at that time was considered the front-runner for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination

Carter attributed his sense of justice to two main sources, Reinhold Niebuhr and Bob Dylan. He said it was Dylan’s song, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More,” that led him to begin to focus on the needs of ordinary people like the tenant farmers he had known in south Georgia.

Bob Dylan

Carter lamented that “the powerful and the influential in our society shape the laws and have a great influence on the legislature or the Congress.” He criticized their “commitment to the status quo” that preserves the “privileged position in society.” He concluded his remarks by saying that “the course of human events, even the greatest historical events, are not determined by the leaders of a nation or a state, like Presidents or governors or senators. They are controlled by the combined wisdom and courage and commitment and discernment and unselfishness and compassion and love and idealism of the common ordinary people.”

God has always demonstrated a concern for ordinary people. Jesus announced his calling was to “preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners,  recovery of sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed…”

God has often chosen ordinary people to carry on the work of redemption and reconciliation in the world. Just look at the people He chose to be his closest associates. Ordinary people.

Advent 12

Last Sunday was the Second Sunday of Advent. The lectionary scripture was the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Ave Maria is the musical setting of the Latin text which was originally published in 1853.

Mary was young in a world where age was venerated. She was poor in a world that belonged to the rich. She was a woman in a world where gender equity was not even an afterthought. In every sense she was an ordinary individual. But Gabriel said, “You are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

We see ordinary people throughout the Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of our Savior. John  the Baptist came as a “voice in the wilderness” calling for people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Eugene Peterson’s The Message says, “His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings.”

Shepherd

As we come nearer to Christmas Day we meet an anonymous inn keeper who provided a place away from the chaos of the moment for Mary to give birth to Jesus. Then we encounter the shepherds. As they “watched their flocks by night” God revealed to them that a child born in their nearby town was the Savior of the world, the Messiah. These ordinary people were perhaps the first to see the Christ Child.

Poh Fang Chia, writing in Our Daily Bread said, “Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us.” The devotional for July 8, 2015 ends with a prayer that is appropriate as we make our way through Advent. “Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all-powerful God. I want to serve You. Please show me how and give me the strength.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

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