Peter Gomes is an American Baptist minister who has served in The Memorial Church at Harvard University since 1970. Gomes is also the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and is the Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church. Gomes is commonly regarded as one of the most distinguished preachers in America. He was named Clergy of the Year in 1998 by Religion in American Life and offered prayers in the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Educated at Bates College and the Harvard Divinity School, Revered Gomes alsoholds thirty-six honorary degrees. He is the author of numerous books on the Bible, including the national best-sellers TheGood Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart and Sermons:Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living.
Question: What is your question?
Peter Gomes: “Am I doing the best I can with what I have?” That would be the fundamental question. I’m not asking, “Can I be the best whatever I am?” I’m asking, “Am I making the best use of whatever talents, skills or opportunities that are placed at my disposal?” That’s my question all of the time. Here I’m always asking myself, “I know I am fluent. I know I have a gift for communication. I know I’m good with language and words. Am I using those things as effectively as possible to influence others for the good? Or am I so charmed by my abilities to do this that it’s all about me and not about them or something else?” That, I think, is the question that people with talent and opportunity – and these are the people who will watch something like this, or engage in its production, or will be in its orbit . . . We’re all . . . we all have talents. We all have skills. How are we using those? Do they do good? Are they doing harm? Or are they neutral or indifferent in the way the world operates? That is the question that I ask myself.
When I was a child in the little church I belonged to in Plymouth – a Baptist church – there was a stained glass window in the ceiling of the pulpit. It’s one of the things I looked at frequently when I was ignoring the sermon – one of the great diversions. And it was a great oculus, a great all-seeing eye, a terrifying single eye like on the dollar bill. And I was reminded by one of my Sunday school teachers of Milton’s line about living in my great task master’s eye. And it was always a phenomenon for me knowing that God was looking at me. God knew everything that I had because God had given me everything that I had. Was I using it wisely? Now that may be a rather barbaric and primitive figure which many could dismiss out of hand. But it’s been a very effective device for me. I am accountable. I have been given things. How do I use them? What kind of a steward of my resources, and of my place and time, am I? Those are the questions that concern me. Now they may be the questions of a neurotic Puritan. I doubt it though. And if that’s neurosis, then give me more of it. I think that’s the kind of question that people in positions such as I hold, that people who are watching situations such as this, ought to be asking and ought to be able to answer with some conscience. I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
Recorded on: 6/12/07