Yes­ter­day when the pas­tors in our local com­mu­ni­ty gath­ered for our week­ly time of prayer, Thomas shared his morn­ing reflec­tion on Matthew 26: 50 – 52: They came and laid hands on Jesus and arrest­ed Him. Sud­den­ly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cut­ting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will per­ish by the sword.’”

It is easy to under­stand the pan­ic that seized the dis­ci­ples when the crowd of armed tem­ple sol­diers came to arrest Jesus in the Gar­den of Geth­se­mane. Mark ran for his life. One of the dis­ci­ples raised a sword to fight back. Every­one was in a pan­ic. Every­one except Jesus. Jesus even addressed His betray­er as friend” before sub­mit­ting to arrest.

Reflect­ing on this famil­iar pas­sage of Scrip­ture, Thomas said that the Lord drew his atten­tion to the self-pro­tec­tive instinct of the dis­ci­ple who fought back. His reflex had been to uti­lize the same means in defense that the attack­ers were using. He swung a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave.

In my cam­pus min­istry,” Thomas explained, I meet stu­dents every day who have been wound­ed in some way by the actions of Chris­tians and the Church. Their wounds make it impos­si­ble for them to hear the lov­ing voice of God. Like the dis­ci­ple in the gar­den, our actions have deaf­ened them to God’s voice.” 

It is inter­est­ing to note Jesus’ reac­tion to this. He cried out, No more of this!” And He touched the man’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:51)

Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. chose to con­front the inequities and vio­lence of racial injus­tice through the civ­il rights move­ment of the 1960s. Moti­vat­ed by Jesus’ Ser­mon on the Mount, King made the Law of Love the guid­ing prin­ci­ple of the move­ment. He said, Along the way of life, some­one must have sense enough and moral­i­ty enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil. The great­est way to do that is through love. I believe firm­ly that love is a trans­form­ing pow­er that can lift a whole com­mu­ni­ty to new hori­zons of fair play, good will and jus­tice. …We need a great deal of encour­age­ment in this move­ment. Of course one thing that we are depend­ing on, from not only oth­er com­mu­ni­ties but from our own com­mu­ni­ty, is prayer. We ask peo­ple every­where to pray that God will guide us, pray that jus­tice will be done and that right­eous­ness will stand.”

The great­est ser­mon of our gen­er­a­tion, in my opin­ion, was actu­al­ly a speech deliv­ered by Dr. King on the steps of the Lin­coln Memo­r­i­al in Wash­ing­ton D.C. on the 28th day of August 1963. Dr. King lat­er said that the I have a dream” por­tion of the speech came to him as he was speak­ing. God gave him a vision of the peo­ple of God in action, a vision Dr. King gave his life to rep­re­sent and pro­mote. A vision we are called by God to embrace as the peo­ple of God.

Excerpt­ed from Dr. King’s I Have a Dream” speech 

Even though we face the dif­fi­cul­ties of today and tomor­row, I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true mean­ing of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evi­dent, that all men are cre­at­ed equal.” 

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Geor­gia, the sons of for­mer slaves and the sons of for­mer slave own­ers will be able to sit down togeth­er at the table of brotherhood. 

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mis­sis­sip­pi, a state swel­ter­ing with the heat of injus­tice, swel­ter­ing with the heat of oppres­sion, will be trans­formed into an oasis of free­dom and justice. 

I have a dream that my four lit­tle chil­dren will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the col­or of their skin but by the con­tent of their character. 

I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alaba­ma, with its vicious racists, with its gov­er­nor hav­ing his lips drip­ping with the words of inter­po­si­tion” and nul­li­fi­ca­tion” — one day right there in Alaba­ma lit­tle black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with lit­tle white boys and white girls as sis­ters and brothers. 

I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every val­ley shall be exalt­ed, and every hill and moun­tain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glo­ry of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” 

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the moun­tain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to trans­form the jan­gling dis­cords of our nation into a beau­ti­ful sym­pho­ny of broth­er­hood. With this faith, we will be able to work togeth­er, to pray togeth­er, to strug­gle togeth­er, to go to jail togeth­er, to stand up for free­dom togeth­er, know­ing that we will be free one day. 

And if Amer­i­ca is to be a great nation, this must become true. 

And so let free­dom ring from the prodi­gious hill­tops of New Hampshire. 

Let free­dom ring from the mighty moun­tains of New York. 

Let free­dom ring from the height­en­ing Alleghe­nies of Pennsylvania. 

Let free­dom ring from the snow-capped Rock­ies of Colorado. 

Let free­dom ring from the cur­va­ceous slopes of California. 

But not only that: 

Let free­dom ring from Stone Moun­tain of Georgia. 

Let free­dom ring from Look­out Moun­tain of Tennessee. 

Let free­dom ring from every hill and mole­hill of Mississippi. 

From every moun­tain­side, let free­dom ring.

And when this hap­pens, and when we allow free­dom to ring, when we let it ring from every vil­lage and every ham­let, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s chil­dren, black men and white men, Jews and Gen­tiles, Protes­tants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

There is no Gen­tile or Jew, cir­cum­cised or uncir­cum­cised, bar­bar­ian, Scythi­an, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. There­fore, as God’s cho­sen peo­ple, holy and dear­ly loved, clothe your­selves with com­pas­sion, kind­ness, humil­i­ty, gen­tle­ness and patience. Bear with each oth­er and for­give one anoth­er if any of you has a griev­ance against some­one. For­give as the Lord for­gave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all togeth­er in per­fect uni­ty.” (Colos­sians 3: 11 – 14

Starting Soon: The 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Runs Sep­tem­ber 2020 through May 2021.

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