Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
When I first looked to see the scriptures upon which I was to reflect, I shuddered at the gospel passage. This is not an easy passage for we who focus upon Jesus’ messages of love and peace. Indeed, on the surface, these words seem to utterly contradict his call to hope, love, and peace. And, yet…I wonder…
Today, I took an excursion that caused me to hear the Spirit differently. I am currently in Atlanta, attending a professional conference. And, today, I took a break from the meetings and visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Museum.
I was a college student when Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered; and, I remember well his work and the civil rights endeavors he led. As I walked the grounds and stood in Ebenezer Baptist Church, I found myself transported back in time. I heard the echoes of Martin Luther King’s voice and the voices of those who joined together in the struggle for human dignity and respect. I heard not only their voices, but the sounds of ugliness, the hatred, the violence that met their non-violent demonstrations and civil disobedience—dogs, hoses, ugly screams, gunshots mingling with the quiet songs of demonstrators. Those sounds were reinforced by images found in a graphic photographic display on lynching in the U.S. I saw and felt utter rage—of those who struck out against those who dared to claim their legacy as God’s beloved, of those who were victimized, and my own rage as I took into myself the human capacity for hate—and, yet, there was something more.
Martin Luther King, Jr. walked a difficult and dangerous path, a path of division and discord, a path that would ultimately lead to his own death. Yet, he persisted because he believed in the fullness of God’s own truth and light. He persisted as a disciple in the face of hatred and division—seeking only to be true to God’s direction.
In today’s gospel, Jesus names the reality likely to follow when we stand with him and attempt to embody God’s call to a “different” way. In essence, he tells us honestly that when we stand with him we often will stand in opposition to human understandings of truth. Yes, Jesus came to bring hope, love, and peace—but humanity and human ways of living are often challenged by the “foolish” ways of God. Thus, division and discord often result. Jesus is reminding the disciples—and us—that being a true and faithful follower is by no means an easy job. The road we are asked to follow may take us into rough terrain, where our journey may be filled with opposition, anger, discord, and hatred.
As I stood among the echoes of the disciples that stood with Jesus
in the civil rights struggle, I understood the reality Jesus is naming—I
could see it in the photos, hear it in the voices, feel it in the depths
of my soul. I knew I was standing on holy ground. These
were disciples who knew that walking in the light asked much, perhaps more
than they felt capable of giving. And, yet, they were able because
they trusted and believed. Can I too do that? Can I stand in
the light—even in the face of evil and hatred? Can I allow the Spirit
to flow through me—my words and my action—to stand with God’s truth?
Gracious God, may it be so.
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