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A Promised Land

January 15, 2021

“Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.'” John 1:50

Today would have been the 92nd birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., had he not been murdered on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis. King’s legacy is monumental, and needed more than ever as we continue to grapple with the racist foundations of this country and the very real scourge of white supremacy in our time.

This Sunday, we’ll hear stories of Jesus calling some of his first disciples. Nathanael was skeptical: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus amazes Nathanael with what he already knows, but Jesus goes on to say (and I’m quoting loosely), “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Jesus calls Nathanael into the surprising movement of God’s salvation for all people, creating life eternal and abundant; it is a gospel movement that promises both the everlasting peace and joy of heaven and a liberating call to work for the sake of justice and righteousness here on earth.

As a white person and preacher, it is not enough for me to drop in a quote from Dr. King here and there. I need to step in line, behind Nathanael and Martin, and follow Jesus. We are all knit together. And while remembering his words isn’t enough, his words still ring, proclaiming that we are in this together. Dr King, writing from that jail in Birmingham, proclaimed, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He went on: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Dr. King reminds us that we are knit together as the people of God. As long as one hurts, all hurt. This is especially true when the pain is inflicted by one upon another, by white upon black. The sin of racism will be the death of us all. We must, I do, renounce the sin of white supremacy.

We have a long way to go, but God’s not done yet. As Jesus promised Nathanael, we will see yet greater things. Dr. King was given such a vision; he shared this vision the night before he was killed. You know the words: “He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” We will see yet greater things.

Today, and throughout this long weekend, we celebrate Dr. King. But it’s not enough to look back and see how far we’ve come. We are called to set our eyes to the future, following God into a world where love and justice are more fully actualized, where hate and violence are put to rest, where equality and freedom burst forth for all. Let’s get to work.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of justice, we pray for a spirit of repentance for those who perpetuate and benefit from the sins of racism and white supremacy. We pray for those who suffer injustice and oppression, that such evil would cease and true freedom would emerge. Give us courage to work for your dream. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: From the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington D.C. (photo by me, 2013).

From → COVID-19

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