Sermon by - Apr 08, 2018

The lyrics of a favorite singer/songwriter James Taylor prompt me today. Here is the preface to one of his all time favorite songs– Shine a Light :

So let us turn our hearts today to Martin Luther King—
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women…living on the earth
Ties of hope and love…sister and brotherhood…
That we are bound together in our desire to see the world
become a place in which our children can grow free  strong
We are bound together by the task that stands before us and
the road that lies ahead
We are bound… we are bound.
~~~
In the Sunday Review on Easter Sunday, the Times published an op ed by Baptist minister and journalist Michael Eric Dyson entitled We Forgot What Dr. King Believed In: He was a man of faith, but his faith demanded action.

His article reminding us that King preached (as did St. John’s rector Jered Weber Johnson on Easter Sunday) about the dynamic dance between Good Friday and Easter, a dance between death and resurrection, between despair and hope…

…Reminding us that King preached that God did not promise us that we would avoid trials and tribulations– rather King said–“if you have faith in God, that God has the power to give you a kind of inner equilibrium though your pain.”

This week, newspapers, the internet, broadcast news and social media across our land covered the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. These stories did not hold back. Virtually all coverage reminded the nation that the struggle continues.

On Wednesday there were gatherings across the country. Among the largest was a march through Memphis, TN.

A banner hung high above a stage that read #I AM  2018” a nod to the” I am a man” slogan that Memphis sanitation workers used when they were striking in 1968, a cause that prompted King to travel to Memphis a half century ago  [STRIB 4/5/18 They came as labor leaders and politicians, retails workers and teachers. Most of all they came with a pointed declaration: the struggle continues.

Police estimate a crowd of 10, 000 descended on this impoverished southern city in a show of force that was a much a commemoration as a call to action.

Many activists expressed concern that King’s legacy might be sanitized as someone who simply advocated for peace. They said they hoped that this moment would provide a change to highlight the forceful lengths to which he was willing to go overcome racism.

Faith, writes Dyson, made King a troublemaker for Jesus. Faith led him to criticize the church, criticize the world around him and in turn, be criticized for those things. In honoring his legacy we must not let complacency or narrow faith blind us to what needs to trouble us, too. [NYT]

Dyson re-tells the story of King’s midnight kitchen experience over a cup of coffee.
It was during the Montgomery bus boycott. Tensions ran high. He had just received phone calls threatening to blow his brains out and blow up his house. This midnight kitchen experience gave the fear stricken Dr. King a sense of God’s unshakable presence. [NYT]

“I grew up in the church. My father is a preacher, my grandfather was a preacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher, only brother is a preacher.
My daddy’s brother is a preacher. So I didn’t have much choice. “

But after that fateful night, instead of, what I’d like to call inherited faith, King had to forge the terms of his own relationship with God.

“I had to know God for myself.
I could hear an inner voice saying to me, Martin Luther,
stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice stand up for truth.
And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the word.”
For the rest of his life Dr. King did just that. [NYT]
~~~
Every year on the second Sunday of Easter, across the Anglican Communion,
we hear about Thomas.

Thomas, the one who was not present when Jesus appears to his traumatized disciples,: not present when Jesus tells them to be at peace and sends them out to do God’s work. The one who was not persuaded by the disciples who declared:
We have seen the Lord!

And who could blame him? Not we, who now live in a hyper- connected, “seeings believing”, Instagram world. Not we, who now must take care to discern whom we can trust to tell us the truth.

 

My brother David is a sports journalist, living in Columbus OH. Dave’s a loyal Twins fan whose camera is always, always ready to shoot.  A while ago I texted him, excited to announce I was sitting at an event next to Tony Oliva, one  of his beloved baseball heroes . Immediately David texted back asking Where’s the foto of you and Tony? If I don’t see one I doubt it’s for real. It’s just not happening. In the words of Thomas:“I will not believe.”

Thomas is not doubting. He is being real. Why?
Because Roman crucifixion not only removed the victim from sight but also from memory, physically and psychically. Witnesses were rendered speechless. There was no story to continue. The person was erased, null and void. Crucifixion was the end of the story.

Surviving in the those chaotic days following the crucifixion of Jesus why wouldn’t Thomas want to see the marks of the nails in his hands and the wound in his side?

When he does see the wounds of the Risen Christ Thomas responds with the most profound faith proclamation uttered by anyone anywhere in all the Gospels:
Not The Lord and The God. Rather,  MY Lord and MY God.
~~~
There are countless connections between the life of Jesus Christ and the life of
MLK, Jr., connections worthy of our attention and study.
Today I want to talk about the connection between Dr. King and Thomas.
Both came to believe in God’s unshakable presence.

Death could not hold Jesus. He is loose in the world.
Still recruiting for the Kingdom of God [Borg]

Jesus recruited our brother Martin. Who after that harrowing night of vicious threats claimed for himself as Thomas once did–My Lord and My God.

On this second Sunday of Easter 2018, in the week in which we mark the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination—let us affirm: the struggle continues.
We must do better.  Let us confess our indifference to those who suffer the oppressive deadly effects of racism.

As we commemorate King’s death and honor his life, let us also let recall the life and moral leadership of one who understood faith as a tool for change, one who embraced faith as a constant source of inspiration to remake the world in the just and redemptive image of God.

This call is heard through our beloved Book of Common Prayer. We heard it in today’s collect: …Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith… [BCP p. 172]

We hear it in Eucharistic Prayer C when we pray together:

Lord God of our forebears: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world around about us.
Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only and not for strength, for pardon only and not for renewal.
Let the grace of this holy communion make us one body, one spirit in the Christ—
Why? so that— we may worthily serve the world in Christ’s name. BCP p.372

May we be emboldened like Thomas and  emboldened like Martin, by God’s unshakable presence in our lives.

Because racial justice IS God’s work in the world around us.
And because the struggle continues and we must do better.

So let us turn our hearts today to Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women…Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love…sister and brotherhood…
That we are bound together in our desire to see the world  become a place in
which our children can grow free strong.
We are bound together by the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead.
We are bound we are bound.

Amen

References:
Shine a Light, James Taylor

Star Tribune April 5, 2018 Still Pursuing His Dream
Awe and Wonder, Continuing the Conversation
www.marcusjborg.org