What’s My Name?
For the last several weeks I have watched videos of many of the Muhammad Ali prize fights. The more I watch the fights, the more I have grown to respect what Ali brought to the ring. He went from being a beloved young, handsome armature and champion to one who was misunderstood and hated because of his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War and his conversion to Islam. However, during his last several decades as Parkinson’s disease slowly took his life, his willingness not to hide, but to smile and love others as well as his country made him an American hero.
I have been looking at the videos of his fights to gain a fuller picture of just how good Ali was. He was fast, strong and smart enough to change his style in adjusting to the respective opponents he faced. One of the surprising observations I have come away from in looking at the videos of his fights is that several of his opponents seemed to be a challenge for him – even many I had not paid attention to like, Alvin “Blue” Lewis; Doug Jones; Leon Spinks; and several others, yet most of these fighters he beat.
Two of his opponents refused to refer to Ali as Ali. Ernie Terrell and Floyd Patterson insisted on calling him by his birth name, Cassius Clay. The response of Ali was to call them out of their name, “Uncle Tom.” He promised to punish and humiliate both fighters by punching them at will, not knocking them out, but hitting them in ways that would hurt them. Often as he rained punches on both fighters, Ali could be heard to say, “What’s my name?” Both Terrell and Patterson were great fighters, but they lost to Ali.
Today’s spiritual blog is not so much about Ali, but about what it is like to grow up and pastor a church where people knew me as a child. I am in my 32nd year as pastor, 41st year as an ordained minister, all at the same church! I started for the first 8 years as an assistant to my father. I was made pastor in my 10th year at 35 years of age.
Many of the members for the church have watched my transition into the pastorate. As a minister, I cannot hide behind some adult – wall of a construct that casts me as a readymade minister who never made a mistake. I have performed weddings for women I once dated. Former Sunday School Teachers are some of my members. Some people ask me, how should they refer to me. I often reply, “You can call me what you want to call me – my friends call me Nick, people who know me from the government in Detroit may call me Councilman or honorable, but when you are knocking at the doorstep of death and your life begins to flee like birds at the first hint of winter, when I walk in your hospital room with a black suit and communion kit, you will rise up in your bed and call me “Reverend.”
I saw this very situation, Monday. When I received a call that my former Minister of Music, Ben Pruitt, was dying, I rushed to the hospital with my communion kit. Ben has never had a problem calling me Rev. Hood. He has known me since my youth. He would go back and forth between calling me Nick and Rev. Hood. On the day he died, when I walked into the hospital room, he knew why I was there. I knew why I was there. We talked for a few minutes. I called my wife and let her speak with Ben. Not wanting to drag out my visit and tire him out any more than he already was tired, I asked him if I could give him communion and pray. Ben sat up in his bed. His handshake was firm. His bother in law and two other friends were there. As I administered communion to Ben, I knew, and I am sure he did as well, that this was the last communion. After prayer I left with a heavy heart, but knowing that he was ready to go home to the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, make me comfortable with myself. Lord, make me comfortable in my faith. Lord, strengthen me in my love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Additional prayers photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/