Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Tacoma Dome
Last night I went to the Tacoma Dome to see Archbishop Desmond Tutu in one of hi s last U.S. appearances. I had no idea what to expect, but had high hopes for an inspirational and motivational experience. The Archbishop was sensational. Not unexpectedly, he is a minister, his talk was more like a sermon than a speech, but what a sermon it was. He dressed in a dark suit with a clerical collar. He didn’t wear the formal cap of an Archbishop. He presented the epitome of a humble, gracious yet obviously powerful and extraordinary man. The crowd had been loud and having fun prior to his arrival on stage, but when he started to talk the dome with its 15,000 in attendance became quiet, focused and listened to every word. At times he literally whispered into the microphone, yet every word was heard clearly.
The Archbishop asked us all to listen for God’s calling, and then to say yes when we hear His call. He had a novel way of looking at the biblical history of the world. He started by stating that God created the world without any help from man. Then by his choice, since humans have inhabited this earth, he has used them to accomplish his mission. He didn’t end apartheid in South Africa by a “Zap,” but rather used the work of humans. From the nations who boycotted South African products to the thousands or people inside and outside South Africa who worked together to end the system of racial segregation God worked through humans to accomplish this end.
Archbishop Tutu gave beautiful examples from biblical times to the present. When God spoke to Moses about going to Egypt to free his people, Moses was terrified. Moses protested, whined and suggested that God must not really know the situation. In the end Moses said yes. When Gabrielle came to Mary to tell her she was the chosen one to bear God’s son, she didn’t balk. She willing bore the disgrace of being an unwed pregnant woman in a society where this was seen as a terrible sin. Look at what came of that simple, “Yes.”
Tutu talked of actions that may seem minor, like sitting on a bus and refusing to get up like Rosa Parks in the action that triggered the U. S. Civil Rights struggle. He talked about the 12 year old Craig Kielburger who spoke before him and the Free the Children project that came from a child who read a newspaper article and took it as a call to action. He challenged all of us to find ways to say yes to God’s call, and to avoid the passive avoidance of inactivity.
What he did not talk about was his own story. How he was the controversial and inspirational outspoken critic of apartheid in South Africa in the 1980’s, and how this led to international support and how he inspired the non-violent end to segregation and the election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa in 1994. He did not speak of his groundbreaking work as the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which by its non-punitive approach to vetting the truth has led South Africa to a more peaceful and successful transition from apartheid to majority democratic rule. The of our seemingly small actions can be singularly or collectively huge.
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