This is the weekend set aside to honor the work of Dr. King.
Let’s honor his legacy by reflecting on a few of his challenging words.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do
that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
The time is always right to do what is right.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about
things that matter.
In the end, we will not remember the words of our
enemies, but the silence of our friends.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in
moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge
When he would preach about the parable of the Good Samaritan
in Luke 10, Dr. King suggested that the priest and the Levite might have passed
by the injured man because of fear. They were afraid of what they would miss
out on if they stopped. They were afraid of what might happen to them if they
stopped. Dr. King said the difference between them and the good Samaritan boiled
down to a question. The religious leaders asked, “What will happen to me if I
help?” The good Samaritan asked, “What will happen to him if I don’t?”
Life is precious. Man is made in God’s image, after his
likeness (Genesis 1:26). We are formed by God’s hand and inspired with God’s
very breath (Genesis 2:6-7).
You can even see this in the holiness codes in Leviticus.
Unclean animals, generally, are the ones that scavenge on the dead. People are made
ceremonially unclean when they come into contact with death or even things that
represent new life not beginning.
In this week’s daily Bible reading, a line in Genesis 9
stood out to me. God warned humanity that he would require an accounting
whenever blood was shed. That didn’t surprise me; I remembered when Abel was
murdered that his blood cried out from the ground (4:10). Of course humans are
accountable when they take life!
What surprised me was that God said “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man” (9:5).
Evidently, human life is so sacred that God will even call into judgment the wild animals that take it.
There’s even a law in Exodus 21:28 that calls for the
execution of an ox that gores a person to death. If its owner was grossly
negligent, the owner might meet the same fate.
Life is incredibly special, a gift to be cherished. Let’s
make sure that we treat every human life the way God intends for us to.
A law enforcement
friend told me that most often when he interviews a subject, he doesn’t have
any problems getting information out of him. Most of us talk entirely too much,
even when it hurts our cause.
Romans 14, when Paul is dealing with controversies about meat sacrificed to
idols and holy days and a whole manner of first century issues, he gives some
surprising instructions: “So whatever you believe about these things keep
between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:22 NIV)
might agree that most of us talk entirely too much.
lots of opinions, feelings, ideas, and thoughts, and just like for you, all of
them are correct. As my old friend “Makk Truck” used to say, “That’s my opinion
and it ought to be yours!”
the great markers of wisdom is the ability to know when to share our genius
insights and when to keep our mouths shut. I haven’t figured that one out quite
yet, but if I ever do, should I tell you the secret?
Paul gives us an answer anyway in Ephesians 4:29. “Let no corrupting talk come
out of your mouth.” Mostly you think of 4-letter words when you hear this line,
and that’s true enough, but the word “corrupt” means something rotten that
spreads decay. Can you think of a time when someone spoke to you in a way that
let the air out of your tires? A time when gossip slandered a friend and
poisoned a group? He continues, “…but only such as is good for building up, as
fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
lean into our right to remain silent a little more, unless waiving that right
builds up, fits the moment, and spreads grace.
a rowdy riverboat captain decided to go to a tent revival in downtown
rich, making a fortune off the family riverboat business. Not only did his
boats provide transportation for goods and people, they were the 1885 version
of the party barge. He made his money off drunkenness, gambling, and “assorted
didn’t go to church to hear the preaching. He didn’t go out of a sense of
obligation. He didn’t go because he loved the Lord. He wasn’t even there out of
a sense of curiosity.
He went because he thought it sounded fun to heckle the preacher.
I wish that May 10, 1885 sermon had been recorded, because something amazing happened. That riverboat captain was convicted and converted. He left meeting committed to gospel ideas. He was so convinced that he pledged $100,000 (in 1885 money!) to construct a permanent meetinghouse large enough for every person in Nashville who wanted to hear preaching in this new Union Gospel Tabernacle.
Thomas Green Ryman’s death, the building took on the name you and I know, the
Ryman Auditorium, the mother church of country music, which was first dedicated
to the work of the church.
know what someone’s motivation might be for coming to worship, but by the grace
of God, sometimes it has changed by the time they leave. And even if it hasn’t,
“Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed,
and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 1;18)
we have time to think, we react.
9:51-55, Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem when a Samaritan village chose
not to receive him. James and John reacted. They said, “Lord, do you want us to
tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
reasonable for them to be emotional about their rejection of Jesus. Their
action was unkind and inhospitable. They could be sad or mad or frustrated or
any combination of those things, but I think that they over-reacted because Jesus
immediately turned and rebuked them. Some manuscripts add a line to the end of
verse 56: “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”
(KJV). Their overreaction caused them to miss the point and forget their place.
reasonable for me to be frustrated when someone says or does something silly,
but I need to take care to keep my overreactions in check. Proverbs says that
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his
spirit than he who takes a city.”
literary genius Tolstoy was considered average. During his life Van Gogh sold
only one painting. Golfer Ben Hogan was a klutz as a kid. Famous Photographer
Cindy Sherman failed her first photography class. Walt Disney was fired from
the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
After performing at the Hi Hat club, a young Elvis was told that he should go
back to Memphis and drive trucks.
where I am right now, but I am not where I will be.
that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make
it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider
that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and
straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
give up. Don’t get stuck. Keep pressing forward! It took you a lifetime to get
to where you are. It’ll take a while to get where you want to be. Never give
warn about those people who “tickle itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) and water
down faith, but we shouldn’t let this warning confuse us about another Biblical
told Titus that the church should be “showing all good faith, so that in
everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our savior.” (Titus 2:10 ESV)
phrase might not be immediately clear. Let me show you some other translations:
order to bring credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything” (New
every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (NIV,
the commandments in Titus 2:1-10 have an eye towards how outsiders will
perceive them. Young women should live in such a way “that the word of God may
not me reviled” (2:5). Young men should be “in all respects” a “model of good
works” (2:7), in a way that will put opponents of Christ to shame.
Christians behave either makes Christianity attractive or unattractive. Our
lives cause outsiders to ask questions. “Why is that slave being so kind to his
master?” “Why is that mom so patient with her husband and kids?” “Why is that
college kid acting so differently than everyone else at the frat party?”
lives should make Christianity attractive and cause people to ask big
questions. What do they have that I don’t? How can I get it? How is she at
peace in such a difficult time?
Let’s make Christianity
attractive by living questionable lives!
the school calendar drives our lives. It determines when we take vacation and
travel. In the 1800s, life drove the school calendar. Classes met during the summer
and winter, not during the spring and fall, because in an agricultural society,
every single person was needed to plant and harvest. Planting a little too
early or a little too late could have disastrous results. Every day longer that
it took to complete the harvest meant the produce was a little less ripe and the
work was a little less profitable. Every worker was needed. Too much delay
could cause the loss of the entire crop.
9:36, Jesus looked at the incredible task in front of him. He preached and taught
and healed and loved. He felt compassion for the people, because “they were harassed
and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Then he spoke to his followers and said, “The
harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the
Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
said that the harvest is huge—but it will be lost without workers.
Jesus and pray that prayer. Let’s ask God to send us workers and helpers and
people who can get the job done. God has answered that prayer at Burns time and
time again. Let’s pray it some more!
the answer to the prayer, too. Let’s pray that God makes us into
workers. Let’s look past our excuses and our fears and step out and become harvest
workers. People are depending on us!
know that Theodore Roosevelt taught Sunday School classes?
Sunday, one of his students came to class with a black eye. He confessed that
he had been fighting—and even worse, on a Sunday! Roosevelt asked the boy what
happened and the boy explained that a bigger, older boy had been pinching his
sister, so he stood up for her—and ended up with a black eye.
told the boy that he had done well defending her and gave the boy a dollar. The
Sunday School superintendent thought this was inappropriate, so they relieved
the future president of his Sunday School teaching duties.
certainly want our kids to learn to solve problems with their words more than
their fists. (“A soft answer turns away wrath” Proverbs 15:1)
them to be willing to turn the other cheek when they are insulted or abused (“If
anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39)
also want our kids to know Psalm 82:3: “Give justice to the weak and the
fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the
weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4).
wrong to defend the defenseless. It’s exactly what God himself has done.
We don’t really need more technology, better educational
systems, or more promising politicians. Do you know what the world really
We need people who are called to a radical simplicity of
lifestyle, to remind the rest of us that we don’t need what we think we need.
We need people committed to celibacy, to tell us that sex is
neither a necessity nor a god.
We need people who are lavish in prayer and spiritual
disciplines, in order to remind those of us with harder spirits of where our
real help comes from.
We need communities of Christians willing to commit
themselves to support each other in risky, venturesome ways, to goad the rest
of us out of our autonomy.
We need Christians willing to resist the many ways in which
the dominant in our world crush the weak.
We need Christians who find a thousand joyful ways to take
the screwed-up values of this world and turn them upside-down.
“The greatest need for our time is for the Church to become
what it has seldom been: the body of Christ with its face to the world, loving
others regardless of religion or culture, pouring itself out in a life of
service, offering hope to a frightened world, and presenting itself as a real
alternative to the existing arrangement.”
(Excerpts from Van Gelder, Confident Witness, 139,
and Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus)