My friend Steve Cranford died last week following a massive stroke he had while they were visiting in Atlanta. I will miss him in so many ways. Steve was one of my early mentors as he served as Regional Minister for the Mid-America Region. He presided at our wedding. And I often spoke with him about his time serving on the Faith and Order division of the World Council of Churches. Steve went on to provide leadership in interfaith concerns in Tulsa.
In the early part of November Steve and Myrna took a swing through Missouri visiting friends and by chance were able to attend one of our Bluegrass services. That night I told a story about Desmond Tutu, the retired Archbishop from South Africa and world Christian leader. When Steve was serving on Faith and Order Tutu was on the commission – before he became bishop. And Steve thanked me for mentioning him and then told a Tutu story of his own.
The story came from the terrible time of apartheid in South Africa. People had begun to rise up and protest that racist and oppressive system and the church and its leaders were giving moral voice to oppose the injustice. Steve said that as they were meeting in Geneva one time Desmond Tutu told a story from the streets of Capetown.
As he walked along the street and spoke with the throngs of protesters, he watched a soldier force through the crowd and elbowed a diminutive little elderly African woman, knocking her to the ground. And Tutu turned to Steve and said, “What the soldier didn’t know was that she was going to prevail; they just didn’t know it yet.”
Let there be no doubt – injustice, evil and oppression have their day. The impossible and terrible does happen. And it often seems to go on forever. But in the long arc of history justice and truth prevail. In the land of deep darkness light shines. There is weeping for the night, but joy comes in the morning. The fist of Rome smashes all dissent, but the quiet appearance of a baby in the night wins the heart of the world.
Force, intimidation, brutality and rampant discrimination still haunt our world. Little old ladies get tossed to the ground. But ruthless power has a shelf life. Now is not forever. It’s just that they don’t know it yet.
Thank you Desmond. Thank you Steve. Thanks be to God.