Last month my wife Pat and I had the opportunity to travel to Little Rock for a long weekend. Besides the meetings that I was there to attend, we enjoyed an evening dinner cruise on the River Boat Arkansas Queen, toured the World War II submarine Razorback, and took a relaxing late evening ride on the trolley car that crosses the river and circles through North Little Rock. There was another stop that I had put on my itinerary; that was to visit the Central High School National Historic Site. The high school itself is still an active educational institution, but across the street the National Park Service maintains a Visitor's Center in a restored 1950s Gas Station. Soon they will open a new Visitor's Center and maintain the Gas Station as an education facility to help tell the story of the pivotal events that took place in that neighborhood 50 years ago this month.
In the Visitor's Center they offer a full color poster featuring two women smiling, arm in arm, standing in front to Central High School. In the lower left corner a small black and white photo insert tells a very different story; its shows the same two women in 1957, one just wanting to attend school and the other expressing racial hatred. The women depicted in these pictures are Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan Massey. The poster is titled "Reconciliation."
The Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthians says, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
A few years back there was a wonderful occasion when Gordon Parks was reconciled with his hometown. That reconciliation required the community to reach out to Mr. Parks and his willingness to reach back in forgiveness and acceptance. That is not a new idea. As Paul so clearly describes the ministry of Jesus Christ, it was God reaching out to creation, seeking reconciliation and asking us to use that as a model for how we will reach out to each other, reaching across the human barriers race, wealth, and other obstacles, to forgive and accept each other for who we all are, brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father, and joint heirs of the glory that God has prepared for us.
Reconciliation is not always easy, but it is necessary if we are to have peace; peace in our community and peace around the world.