This week was one ripe for a remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. I wonder what he would have to say about our current events, about the state of racial issues, pervasive violence and war profiteering, and economic injustice and materialism that he decried. Yet, when we try to invoke Dr King, we also come up against a rather sanitized portrait. This is the portrait of our now national hero who was once accused by the FBI in his day of being “an instrument in the hands of subversive forces seeking to undermine our nation.” The King I learned about in grade school, on reflection, bears little resemblance to the radical King who called for non-violent but militant revolution on behalf of the poor. This was what he believed to be his calling from God, and his example in Jesus. Yet, on the national celebration of his birthday, what King are we listening to? Vincent Harding, who wrote King’s “Beyond Vietnam” address once wrote:
“It appears as if the price for the first national holiday honoring a black man is the development of a massive case of national amnesia concerning who that black man really was.”
Harding tells us to tell our children that Dr King no longer found the older dream sufficient, but instead planned to march on Washington again in massive civil disobedience:
“calling on thousands and hundreds of thousands of lovers of justice until the cause of the poor became the nation’s first priority, until all people were guaranteed jobs or honest income, until our nation stopped killing Asians abroad and turned to tend to the desperate needs of its people at home.” … “he had come to believe that revolution in America, for America, was absolutely necessary, but he also believed that the only true revolution is a revolution that manifests the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth—nonviolent, loving, determined, defiant, and compassionate.”
This week we look at our listening to the Word of God. We talked two weeks ago about the incarnation of God’s Word, how we see it manifest in those such as Oscar Romero, a living parable of the Word. Can we hear that Word in the prophets that are sent to us?
We looked at all this through the lens of 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1a, noting that this is not a quaint story of personal experience, but a story about God’s sending of a prophet to the people to address injustice, to bring Israel to peace, reconciliation, and justice. The lesson of 1 Sam 3 is not about a personal fulfilling experience that ends there, nor is it that we are all prophets. We will not all be Samuel, or Romero, or King, but God’s Word will come to us in those such as these (and is embodied in Jesus), and we can engage this Word as a people. Are we a people that listens to God’s Word when it comes?
You can find this week’s sermon here:
For convenience sake, there is also a podcast available. You can find that here.