Reflection: April 8 – Easter 2

Published on Apr 12th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0
 
Last Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I was almost 8 when news of his death was announced; I remember well the hush that fell over our home as my parents mourned his murder.  We probably talked about it at school, but what stands out most for me is the hushed, reverent conversation that adults were having about what might happen in the US.
 
In March of 1968, a few weeks before Dr. King’s murder, President Lyndon Johnson had just decided to send more troops the to join the 500,000 US troops in Vietnam.  But what he’d also done in the previous year and early 1968 was to promise to launch voting rights and anti-poverty initiatives based on the Kerner Commission started in 1967.  It was estimated that $80 to $100 billion needed to be invested in employment, education, welfare, and housing to prevent the US from becoming entrenched as 2 societies, one black and one white, separate and totally unequal.  Well, we know how that played out… or didn’t!
 
Johnson was too afraid of losing the war in Vietnam.  The war effort needed money and it ended up costing more than $100 billion.  At the end of March, Johnson, not knowing what to do, announced that he would not seek re-election and that the economic measures considered would not be taken.  Five days later, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis where he’d gone to support the 
 striking sanitation workers.
 
A year before his death, Dr. King had outlined in a sermon at Riverside Church in New York City, actually one year exactly April 4th, 1967, he explained why he opposed the Vietnam War.  He also spoke about the tri-threats of racism, poverty and militarism.  In 1968, Dr. King had planned a “Poor People’s Campaign” on Washington, DC; it went ahead in May in spite of Dr. King’s murder and a Resurrection Tent City was erected to advocate for guaranteed annual income and other economic measures to support poor people.
Other than the fact that Dr. King was a hero to many of us and his death a real tragedy and slap in the face to justice everywhere, I tell you a bit about Dr. King’s Death because he was also a very devout man of faith.  We often make the mistake of assuming that those who are front-line activists are doing what they do not so much as an expression of a deep prayer life or deeply held religious convictions but as an ethical quest for justice.  Yes, the quest for justice and improving conditions for everyone is vitally important, but many of us who are involved in justice work, are involved because we believe that God created in goodness and love, and all beings are entitled to live with due respect and freedom.
 
Dr. King believed in prayer and his speeches were usually in the context of a prayer meeting or where prayers were offered.  Precious Lord was his favourite song and it was sung at his funeral by Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer.  “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.”  Or the last verse: “When the darkness appears, and the night draws near, and the day is past and gone, at the river I stand, guide my feet, hold my hand: take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.”  He felt his vulnerability and knew that he relied on God’s strength moving through him.
 
And these themes of light, love, justice and joy echo in John’s letter to the Church.  And one of the important themes in John’s letter is how we are together.  The word is koinonia, a deep communion, a deep community with one another in which God is an active participant.  Dr. King envisioned a world in which people and beings lived in a deep koinonia, where everyone shared equally in access to justice, food, shelter, education, home and the resources needed to live life fully.  Prayer is one way to make this happen.
 
I don’t know who said it, but it was a long time ago: one of the most dangerous political things we can is to pray.  And the prayer that Jesus taught is one of those beautiful prayers that gets at everything.  When we don’t know what to say in prayer, we can say the prayer that Jesus taught and it covers it all.
 
There is the address to God and an acknowledgement of awe and reverence; I’ve always loved the fact that one becomes a member of the Iona Community, there is a hallowing to go through.  To hallow is a good verb.  There is the prayer for the KinDom to come as we’ve been calling it these days, a deep koinonia for all life.  We pray for heaven to be lived here, for life to be affirmed and celebrated for all.  We acknowledge our need for daily sustenance and that all should have access to safe, good, clean, wholesome food and water.  We speak about our humanness and our mistakes and ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness to others.  Wouldn’t this be a beautiful way to end international conflicts and trade wars rather than resorting to violence and sanctions!  And it isn’t that we forgive because others forgive; we all forgive and ask to be forgiven when we’ve wronged another because it is the right and human thing to do.  We continue to pray for courage—heart sense—to face our struggles, our temptations and to combat the evil that is sometimes done.  And finally, that wonderful offering of praise at the end, that God participates fully with us in the KinDom and so is due glory and wonder and awe always, from age to age.
 
And lastly, I want to say that for me prayer is related to the Hebrew word compassion, which means womb or guts.  I’ve said this before, but when we pray, that for which we pray is taken up into God’s heart in light and love, is renewed there and delivered again into the world from the womb of God’s existence.  Compassion is the idea that we take into our wombs and our guts the things that concern us and that something new takes shape and is born.
 
Dr. King had a dream for a new way of being together in koinonia.  Jesus embodied that dream and new life blossomed to make that dream more than just a possibility.  We all have a dream for the KinDom to be real and NOW; we join our prayers to this act of intentionality to live the KinDom here and in all we do, and we follow Paul’s injunction to the Church in Philippi (and really to all of us who follow the Jesus Way):
Be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)
 
May it be so!  Amen.

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