Friday, January 27, 2012
Throughout the preacher’s life he or she must reflect on the nature of their calling and vocation. Not too long ago on a pastoral retreat I was reminded of one of the purposes of this uncanny calling.
One night several pastors of various stripes--a combination of whites, blacks, females, males, Baptists, Lutherans, etc.--were walking briskly along the cobbled streets of Jerusalem. Our destination was the Wailing Wall. The streets were crowded and people were selling everything under the sun. Then something happened!
We were stopped by a Jewish merchant who yelled to one of the black pastors of the group, “Hey, Obama man! You must buy this.” The pastor to whom the merchant spoke resembles Obama in only one way: he is a member of the darker race. He and Obama share no other attributes in common. Specifically, the pastor to whom the Jewish merchant called out is much darker than Obama, the texture of his hair is different from the texture of Obama’s, and he is much shorter. Yet, this Jewish merchant saw this African American male as a replica of Obama.
This incident was unlike any other I have ever experienced in my life. However, I do recall an incident that was the antithesis of this one. That incident occurred while I was running down a sandy beach in Jamaica. A dread-locked Rasta greeted me with these words: “Hey Biggy Small’s brother….Michael Jackson’s brother!” Although the Rasta spoke in sweet Jamaican cadence, the cadence of his words was the only thing that was sweet to me.
I had crossed the seas to be reminded that I was still looked upon as a stereotype, a fabricated element of the culture. My Jamaican brother saw me as a rapper, an entertainer. He could not see me as Colin Powell’s brother, or as the brother of any of the many other African Americans who have shown the world an image of the best that the black race can offer. Now, here in the sacred streets of Jerusalem, people of my gender and race are being seen as the most powerful man in the free world.
There is so much to say about the vocation—the call and voice of a preacher. I will never stop grappling, redefining what my call is; however, being called the president of the US really gave me a place to hang my hat. Moreover, I now know that where I hang my hat will determine where others hang theirs.
There is an old tale about Abraham Lincoln when he was a young boy. According to the tale, he came home one day and put his hat on the floor. His dad sternly admonished him for an act which suggested a flawed character. Additionally, young Abe’s dad told him to never put his hat on the floor, but rather to always hang it high.
Darryl Aaron is the pastor of First Baptist Church Highland Avenue in Winston-Salem. This article was submitted as a reflection from 2007.