Sunday School with President Carter
When my sister-friend Bryn asked if I wanted to go to Plains, Georgia for Sunday school with President Jimmy Carter, I think all of my neighbors heard me scream “yes.”
Sunday school with the 39th President of the United States is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but until I actually did it, I had no idea how much I needed to.
Plains is about 3 and a half hours of mostly country road from where I live. You have to go there the day before, stay overnight in a hotel and then get up and stand in line for a few hours with folks who have come from all over the world for this experience and I was happy to do so.
Bryn’s husband Tim drove so I had the chance to sit in the back seat making all kinds of Ms. Daisy references, sing Christmas carols and country music and actually see the beauty that surrounded us.
We had a blast. We laughed about the silliest things, talked politics, policy and sociology. We developed ideas for work and for making the lives of women better while we giggled like children in anticipation of the big event.
As joyful as we were, we had no way to know that our joy would be made even fuller.
I’m going to get to it as best as I can (even my thoughts have a Southern drawl) but I’ll tell you now, there’s no way I can do that day justice.
I’d love to tell you all about the church and the members, especially Ms. Jan, the woman who told us what to do, say, and how to act. I’d love to go into the detail of how a church of 30 members provides food and shelter for tens of thousands of needy folks. How they host hundreds of visitors every week, and how the secret service have to make sure each of them stays in line. (I do believe that even they follow the instructions of Ms. Jan, who also taught Amy Carter when she was in the 4th grade.)
I’d love to tell you all about sitting right behind the President and Mrs. Carter as we all sang Go Tell It On The Mountain, but I need to tell you this; once I got beyond my excitement, awe, respect, admiration, and plain old geeked-out spasms, I got a powerful Sunday school lesson that will affect me forever.
The President outlined the four songs of Christmas. He spoke of Isaiah’s servant song, and Mary’s Maificat; how it turned the world upside down.
“It transforms the consciousness of human beings about our creation,” President Carter said. Through her calling and reaction, he said, “The lowly become key players in God’s kingdom.”
The President went on to outline Zechariah’s Benedictus and pointed out a most important lesson; "That we should not worry about what we will do, but the kind of person we should be."
“If you want to be a better person,” President Carter said, “Copy the life of Christ.”
He went on to the Song of Simeon; Nunc Dimittis. Through the song of the devoted Simeon, the old man who waits at the temple, we know that we are connected to a partner who “knows everything and can do anything,” the President said.
Then he tied it all together and I was moved to tears, commitment and service.
“We are to be a little Christ. A light to all nations. We have been given the opportunity which some would call a duty; to show love, compassion, grace, forgiveness to all the world. Our life and freedom give us the choice to serve. The greatest prayer we can have is the prayer of Simeon to know the promise of the Mesiah.
Jesus taught us the proper relationship between ourselves and human beings. Through this we must know that we are all equal, worthy and important.
It is because of this that we know that success according to Christ, looks very different than it does to the world. The greatest in the Kingdom is the servant of all. So we are to demonstrate peace, justice, service, compassion and love.
When we do, we will be able to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Be you, be at peace, be joy.
Bertice Berry, PhD.