|1 Samuel 17:32-33,
Psalm 144:1, 2, 9-10
This week we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. Through prayer services, celebrative events, and memorial presentations, we again remember the courage of a man of our times. He was willing to stand up for what he believed, not only for himself or his people, but for all peoples, to challenge us to work for justice and equality for all. However, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a very controversial person at the time of his challenging the racial injustices in our country. Many people took issue with his message and/or actions. One person’s courageous acts can look foolhardy or misdirected at best.
Today’s readings also retell the stories of courage in the face of great odds.
I remember the story of ‘David and Goliath’ as a young child. From a child’ s perspective, the story seemed to fit among the many fantastic stories, whether bible stories or fairy tales, legends or myths that presented a super-human character acting to ‘right the wrong’ of their time. Re-reading the scripture story today still conjures up a bit of the ‘super-human’ quality. However, David was not a super-human; he had to convince the leader, Saul, to allow him to ‘go up against this Philistine.” David convinced Saul that God was with him, even as a youth; it was only then that Saul allowed David to meet up with the Philistine.
In the gospel, Mark recounts the story of Jesus’ challenging the Pharisees’ interpretation of keeping the Sabbath holy. Faced with a man with a shriveled hand, Jesus asks: “Is it permitted to do a good deed on the Sabbath -- or an evil one? To preserve life -- or to destroy it?” Jesus is angered by the Pharisees’ non-response, and closed mindedness. He then heals the man, even though he is aware that the Pharisees would join with the Herodians to plot Jesus’ demise.
How do people respond to one who courageously challenges the injustice of the status quo? As I reflect on my reactions to acts of courage in my midst, I have mixed feelings. I’m usually in awe at the person’s willingness to ‘stand up’ against the status quo, but also find myself discomforted. It shakes up my world, knowing that as someone acts out of personal conviction, it challenges me to reassess what and who I am, and what I believe. And, usually, it raises the question of what am I willing to do in the face of injustice. That’s the hard part…because I’m challenged to respond personally. My comfort zone shifts as I reflect on the values that are challenged.
In the stories of David and Jesus, people had to go forward with their own personal responses…identifying and supporting the courageous acts or turning their backs on the courageous one. However, in both stories, God’s presence is alive and well in David’s and Jesus’ consciousness. They trusted that God was with them.
When we are faced with challenges made by others to the injustices around us, do we struggle with the questions of values, right judgement, and discomfort alone, or do we invite God into the discernment? Often times, I attempt to do the sorting out process of where I stand, who I am, etc. on my own - rather than inviting God into the process.
My prayer today is that I/we invite God into our daily lives as we walk with the courageous people in our midst. How we respond to challenges in our midst, whether it is dealing with terrorism, abuse, oppression or day to day struggles, will have a truer response if God is a participant in our discernment and responses.
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