Psalm 36.7-9 (NRSV)7How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
The Wisdom of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Every person must decide whether he [or she] will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
The Gospel Matthew 19.27-30
Peter said to Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, in the new age…everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Click below for audio recording of the reflection:
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
There’s been a lot of talk this week about the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The ultra conservative right wing rhetoric in the United States this week has even co-opted the voice and the memory of this great man in the interest of resisting gun safety legislation that we so desperately need to keep our children safe. Dr King died at the end of the barrel of a gun used by one of these very right wing racist thugs who wanted nothing but to quiet him and destroy everything he stood for. But that did not happen.
Others rose up to carry the torch. Well-meaning white people who had no stake in the civil rights movement and who had remained quiet were awakened by the horror of yet another assassination. Dr. King made three. Jack, Bobby, and Martin… all killed for wanting to bring a new order to the world where the poor are cared for and racism is faced head on.
But here we are in 2013 with the first African-American president sitting in the White House coming to terms with the reality of racism in the United States once again. Twenty first graders in Newtown, Connecticut finally got our attention. And since that terrible day now only just a little over a month ago more than 1000 Americans… men, women, and children… have died by gunshot. 1000!
It’s time to stop burying our head in the sand. It’s time to stop talking about gun violence in the US as if it’s something that is far, far away from our families. We are all a heartbeat away from becoming a statistic or losing someone we love to random acts of gun violence.
But what does that mean for those of us who call ourselves Christian? Do we sit piously in our pews and pray with heads bowed and hands folded? Do we make the case that “people hunt” and that they “have a constitutional right to bear arms?” Not to worry, there are plenty of folks out there who will make those cases. We read the gospel stories to find answers for what our call is in this.
In our gospel today Peter rightly asks Jesus “what about us?” He reminds Jesus that they have sacrificed everything to follow him. That they have lost many of the things that the world defines as success. And Jesus says, “[M]any who are first will be last, and the last first.” What does this mean? It’s great rhetoric but what does it really mean for our lives and that for which we are responsible?I think what Jesus is saying here is that those of us who are invested in an outcome that gives us power over others and sets us in positions above others are not going to fare well in the peace and serenity department. We may find ourselves acclaimed by our friends and colleagues but locked out of things that are eternal. And some of us who may seem pitiful to the world in the way that we stand up for the oppressed and speak out for justice even when it’s unpopular may end up at the end of the line for fame and popularity.
Whatever we do the choice is ours. It is not foisted upon us by others. Dr. King said, ““Every person must decide whether he [or she] will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Every one of us must decide for ourselves. Will we follow our Creator God or will we follow the pathways of those in power in the world?
If we follow God’s ways we will go to work dismantling the very privilege that sets us apart from “others.” We will continually examine our lives for ways that we can work for justice, stand up for right, speak out for those who have no voice.
But where are we supposed to get the strength and courage to do this… to go against the grain of everything the world says is success? “Psalm 36:7-9 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” We take our strength from God herself.
Our life is not left to a fate that is determined by the lot we draw in life. Fate is what is left when there is no hope. For if hope had no power to change the outcome of what fate has laid before us then it would not be called hope but simply referred to as delusion. Nothing is inevitable. The hope we live in can become reality but only if we ACT.Jesus acted and paid the ultimate price. Rev Dr King acted and paid the ultimate price, too. And in both cases good men and women rose up and took their place and continued to fight against the forces of evil that wants to keep the power for themselves and relegate the masses to a slavery of mind, body, and spirit.
In every generation good people have to make their decision… will we be first.. living a life of honor and respect? Or will we be last, working for justice and spreading the message of the good news of God’s love for the world? Will we stand in judgment or stand with those who are suffering?I think I know what Dr. King would ask of us. And we read clearly what Jesus asked of us. Will we answer that call to work for justice and spread God’s love? Will we get out of our comfort zone and risk our power and privilege to save another? The choice is ours.