“Oh, what a beautiful morning.” Those words obviously were made famous in the song by that title in the Broadway Musical Oklahoma!, which is my home state. I gladly loaned them to Texas on the morning of May 6 and more specifically to Waco and McLane Stadium on the Baylor Campus.
I was there along with my wife, Linda, and other family to celebrate the graduation of our granddaughter Madison. Sunglasses were as necessary as COVID masks for the crowd entering the stadium. The light of the sun shining in a cloudless sky was dazzling. Because this was the class of 2020 who had their graduation postponed a year because of COVID, the day had brightness to it not caused by the sun. Also since my sermon for the coming Sunday was titled “Jesus the Light,” the words of my Scripture text were at every destination of my thoughts: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not extinguished it.”
“I watched my granddaughter celebrate her future as her grandmother was nostalgic about her past.”
There was a brightness as I watched and listened to two women experience the day. Those two women were my graduating granddaughter and her grandmother, who was a Baylor student in 1960-61. My wife, Linda, had dreamed of going to Baylor even though she lived in Mississippi. To go to Texas then was like going to school across the Atlantic, which was in reality only the Mississippi river. Unfortunately, Linda’s father was struck with a life-threatening illness that ultimately led to his early death. Linda decided to leave Baylor and transfer to Mississippi College, closer to home. However, that one year of “living her dream” made a big impact on the Mississippi girl.
On May 6, 2021, Linda enjoyed Madison’s day in a way that none of the rest of the family could have. I watched my granddaughter celebrate her future as her grandmother was nostalgic about her past. All the while my sermon for Sunday was in the back of my mind: “darkness cannot prevail over light.”
Baylor President Linda Livingstone in her address to the graduates told a remarkable story that illustrated that truth. The story was about a message of congratulations she received from a female alumnus upon Livingstone’s election as president. The woman who wrote the note of congratulations to Baylor’s first female president asked President Livingstone to allow her to run on to the field prior to a Baylor football game. She said she graduated long before women were allowed to do such a thing. Livingstone saw an opportunity to right a wrong or to “let the light shine.” She invited all female alumni to return to Baylor for a game and run on to the field.
The light was very bright on May 6 at McLane stadium in a way even more relevant to the moment. In Madison’s day of celebration and Linda’s day of nostalgia, we were joyously stunned by the diversity of nations of origin and the corresponding skin colors of the new graduates. Linda would later recall to our family while having lunch outside the Student Union Building that when she was a Baylor student there were no Black students.
“We were joyously stunned by the diversity of nations of origin and the corresponding skin colors of the new graduates.”
Also during lunch, Linda shared a memory prompted by the place where we were. Although there were no Black students in her day, there were Black people on the wait staff in the Student Union. She remembered a nice day very much like our day when some of the wait staff came outside for their break. They were enjoying the music coming from the Student Union, and some were dancing.
On the drive home, I recalled the memories of 60 years ago and the memories of the day. Just when I thought my ruminating on the day was over, I was at home in my chair watching the national news on CBS. One of their featured stories was about a graduating high school student who had been offered millions of dollars of scholarships from colleges all over the nation. That student just happens to be Black and female.
So, at the end of the day I thought about light overcoming darkness. I am convinced a suburb in the Dallas/Fort Worth area will not be able forever to conflate racial justice issues with other “disturbing to them” changes that are happening across this nation. I am confident that voter suppression may work for political gain for a while but will ultimately fail.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” King obviously knew the Scriptures and particularly the words of John the Apostle as he eloquently wrote of the coming of the Christ, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.”
Gary Cook serves as pastor of Gaston Oaks Baptist Church in Dallas and as executive director of Gaston Christian Center.