Our new year has not gotten off to a good start, has it? Of course, I am referring to the horrendous scenes from the Capitol Building this past Wednesday. As disgusting as these scenes were, perhaps the most troubling to me was rioters carrying symbols of Jesus as they went about their illegal behavior. Would Jesus condone such activity? The answer is found clearly in the gospel of Matthew when Jesus revealed to Peter and his followers that he was entering Jerusalem to be killed. Peter’s reaction was swift. “That will never happen.” Peter had violence in mind. And Jesus' words were also swift. “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus would never condone what we saw this past Wednesday and what we have seen in multiple acts of injustice and violence over the past few months. Reactions that you may be having are anger, disgust, despair, and even fear of what lies ahead both for you and your family and for our country. All of those emotions would be reasonable. Do we have any reason for optimism? Can our society overcome the culture of hate that seems to be building among many of our fellow citizens, even some of our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Over the past couple of days, in addition to seeking wisdom from reading various Bible passages, I have tried to seek out opinions being forwarded on the most recent violence from Christian thought leaders. I have found those helpful, but the most impacting writings that I have found are from a source that I expect is not surprising to us. It came from an American spiritual leader and gifted orator who fought injustice and persecution, yet did so in a completely non-violent manner, with Christ at the forefront of everything he did. Of course, I’m talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. A week from tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day when we celebrate his life’s work in seeking justice for people of color. Sadly it was a life cut short by violence and hate. This week as we lead up to MLK Day, may I suggest reading some of Dr. King’s speeches and sermons? There are so many great speeches to choose from, but this morning I would like to share with you a small portion of a speech that he delivered in May of 1956. Dr. King delivered this speech to a massive crowd in New York City on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling against school segregation. In this speech, Dr. King uses the metaphor of the exodus from Egypt to symbolize the struggle for liberty and justice for all. Here is the conclusion to that sermon, which I think provides some great encouragement to Christians trying to navigate our present circumstance.
“Let us not despair. Let us not lose faith in man and certainly not in God. We must believe that a prejudiced mind can be changed, and that man, by the grace of God, can be lifted from the valley of hate to the high mountain of love. Let us remember that as we struggle against Egypt, we must have love, compassion, and understanding goodwill for those against whom we struggle, helping them to realize that as we seek to defeat the evils of Egypt we are not seeking to defeat them but to help them, as well as ourselves. God has a great plan for this world. His purpose is to achieve a world where all men will live together as brothers, and where every man recognizes the dignity and worth of all human personality. He is seeking at every moment of His existence to lift men from the bondage of some evil Egypt, carrying them through the wilderness of discipline, and finally to the promised land of personal and social integration. May it not be that this is entirely within the realm of possibility? I prefer to live by the faith that the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever,” Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
That speech is entitled "Death on the Seashore" if you want to Google it and read the entire speech. I encourage any of you who may not be familiar with Dr. King’s life to take the opportunity to learn more about him during this week leading up to MLK Day on Monday, January 18.
Our heavenly Father, we praise you as our Creator and our Sustainer and we acknowledge that we are created in your image for the sole purpose of glorifying your name. We are thankful that you are a God of love and that you demand love from us directed toward all men and women. Father, we ask protection from the sin of hate and prejudice that creeps at our door and for the times when we succumb to it. We beg your forgiveness and pray for the strength to remove these sins from our lives. We come to you this morning as a grieving people due to the injustice and violence that continue to be a plague against our country. We pray that you will keep us from despair and help us look to the day when a new heaven and new earth will be brought by the return of Jesus. Until that day, we pray for our government leaders that they may subordinate personal gain and do the things that will bring justice and peace to our land. Bless us with the courage to be ambassadors for Christ, examples of brotherly love to our fellow Americans. We pray in the name of Jesus and may his love shine on our nation. Amen.