Noah, his family, and a bunch of animals sailed in the storms for 40 days and 40 nights hoping the rain would stop. The Hebrew children were slaves in Egypt for 400 years crying out to God for a savior. They then spent 40 years in the wilderness trying to find the way God was leading them. Israel/Judah then spent (approximately) 70 years in exile being captive to the Assyrians and the Babylonians before returning to Jerusalem. It never got better as the Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans controlled their lands. The final, devastating blow to Israel was delivered at the destruction of Herod’s rebuilt temple in 70 AD. The history of God’s people is difficult to explain and painful to rehearse. It is, however, pertinent to living life in the presence of a God who creates life and calls that life to a faithful and holy obedience.
Kingdoms, dynasties, and republics have come and gone. Sometimes they are promoted as God’s tool. Other times, they are seen as the devil’s weapon. Occasionally, a bit of both characterizations is likely true. There is good and bad in this world and good and bad in people. There is also a God who is alive and who is at work in the midst of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the chosen and the rejected of the world. Believe that with all of your heart, and use it as a context for viewing the world and the world’s events.
America now has lived through 50 years of wilderness wandering and exile as the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was lost on April 4, 1968. It is a sad and joyful day. Sad in that his life was taken way too early by a sinful man and his evil, racist culture. Joyful in that God has used the words and leadership of Dr. King in a powerful way to change the world. If you look closely, you will see that even America has changed a little bit. And we aren’t really that fast at learning and changing. In many ways we still prefer the exile of separation and division over the promised land of ALL God’s people living faith, hope and love.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was one of my brothers. I miss him, though I didn’t know him. I love him, though I never embraced him. I need him, though he has never preached to me. I follow him, though he has never led a march in my city. I am sad every day that I realize he’s not a living voice in our world.
Racial issues are still present in the land, and in the church. How can this be? The scriptures begin by telling us that God created man in His image. Not white man, or black man, or tan man. God created man in His image. Loving another man/woman is the first and greatest way we honor God. Our songs, our sermons, our writings, our tall steeples, our global programs are only tokens and tools pointing toward the overall mission of God. THE mission is to love God, and that means to love those things that bear his image.
God didn’t invent guns or abortion or borders or democrats or republicans or any of the other things that politically divide our Christian congregations today. God invented man/woman, and He then said we were a good creation. Let me say that again. God created man in His image. Not some men, but all men. Not white men, but all men. And just to be clear, the use of ‘man’ is not a gender claim, but a statement about all of humanity sparked into being by God’s intentional act and care. God created it, said it was good, and then He went about loving what He created.
If you want to honor God today, start by loving others. Make a gesture to be reconciled to someone that you are separated from regardless of race, tradition, or politics. Open your door to a stranger that needs your protection and your company. Extend your hand to people who need help and don’t do it for you or your conscience. Do it because God created them in His image just like He did you.
Whatever you do today, don’t do it because it’s the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s murder. Do it because not only is it the decent thing to do, it is the righteous thing to do. Let the church be the leader in loving all people and being the voice of justice in all communities.
Listen to these beautiful words from Dr. King to the church in Alabama (and around the world).
“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.” (MLK, Jr. – 1963)
I’m daring to dream today. I’m not dreaming the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. crafted for a sermon. (Thank God he did!) I am dreaming the dream that God placed in my heart a long time ago. I refuse to let it be cut down or killed by greed, fear, pride, or power. In this week following the resurrection of our Lord, I dare to dream that God would raise up the American church to be big on our commitment to love what God has created and live large into where God is calling us. Fifty years of listening to sermon recordings and reading quotes has left us hungry and thirsty for more of this kind of theology. We need it today more than ever. We need to dream again. We need to find that Godly power again. We need to love again. We need God’s deliverance again.
Come Lord Jesus come!