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)

This week we have looked at the way 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)

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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