February 27 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

An additional principle that Dr. King talked about in his Christmas Sermon on Peace is nonviolence and the importance of the means we use to achieve our goal of social justice.

“If we are to have peace in the world, men and nations must embrace the nonviolent affirmation that ends and means must cohere. … There have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means really aren’t important. The important things is to get to the end. … So if you are seeking to develop a just society, any means will do so long as you get there. They may be violent, they may be untruthful means; they may even be unjust means to a just end. There have been those who have argued this throughout history. But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and, ultimately, you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.

“It is one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. the conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne and Napoleon were seeking a peaceful world order. … They were talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.”

Link to more:

In what was one of his first national television interviews in 1957, young Martin Luther King, Jr. (he was 28 at the time) explained his belief in non-violence to Martin Agronsky. A six minute clip from that interview can be found here.

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • If Dr. King is right that “the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree” what implications does that have for your life?
  • Pray for the wisdom to know what to do when you face a situation where there is a conflict between the goal you have in mind and the means you have to use to achieve it.

 

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February 23 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:
Here is another insight from Dr. King’s Christmas Sermon on Peace (December 24, 1967) about what it will take to really create peace on earth.

“Our world is sick with war; everywhere we turn we see its ominous possibilities. . . There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the very destructive power of modern weapons of warfare eliminates the possibility that war may any longer serve as a negative good. And so, if we assume that life is worth living, if we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and so let us this morning explore the conditions for peace. . . .

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools. . . .

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. . . This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact.”

Link to more:

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • As you go through the day today, reflect on all of the ways that you are interdependent with others—both here and around the world.

February 20 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

At the heart of Dr. Martin Luther’s King’s teachings is the emphasis on the sacredness of all human life. Dr. King was constantly challenging people to remember that each person they encountered—whether friend or foe—is a child of God. This excerpt from his famous “Christmas Sermon on Peace” (December 24, 1967) lays out this core principle in a beautiful way.

“The next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God. . . . Man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smoldering. Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such. Until men see this everywhere, until nations see this everywhere, we will be fighting wars. One day somebody should remind us that, even though there may be political and ideological differences between us, the Vietnamese are our brothers, the Russians are our brothers, the Chinese are our brothers; and one day we’ve got to sit down together at the table of Brotherhood.

“But in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. In Christ there is neither male nor female. In Christ there is neither Communist or capitalist, In Christ, somehow, there is neither bound nor free. We are all one in Christ Jesus. And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won’t exploit people we won’t trample over people with the iron feet of oppression and we won’t kill anybody.

Link to more:

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Think of someone in your life you don’t like or who is a problem for you and then remind yourself that he or she is a child of God. Does it change anything for you to think of that person in that way?
  • Say a prayer that you can be more aware of the sacredness of every person you meet today.

February 15 MLK Reflection

The overall theme for our reflection on Dr. King’s teachings during the Lenten Season will be his assertion that we as individuals and as a country need “a revolution of values.”

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. (April 4, 1967)

“I think we must see the great distinction between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement. Now we are called upon to raise some questions about the house itself. Now we are in a situation where we must ask the house to change its rules, because the rules themselves don’t go far enough. In short, we have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We are still called upon to give aid to the beggar who finds himself in misery and agony on life’s highway. But one day, we must ask the question of whether an edifice which produces beggars must not be restructured and refurbished. That is where we are now. . .

“We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together. And you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other. Jesus confronted this problem of the inter-relatedness of evil one day, or rather it was one night. A big-shot came to him and he asked Jesus a question, what shall I do to be saved? Jesus didn’t get bogged down in a specific evil. He looked at Nicodemus, and he didn’t say now Nicodemus you must not drink liquor. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not commit adultery. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not lie. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not steal. He said, Nicodemus you must be born again. In other words Nicodemus, the whole structure of your life must be changed. . .

“Now this is what we are dealing with in America. Somebody must say to America, America if you have contempt for life, if you exploit human beings by seeing them as less than human, if you will treat human beings as a means to an end, you thingafy those human beings. And if you will thingafy persons, you will exploit them economically. And if you will exploit persons economically, you will abuse your military power to protect your economic investments and your economic exploitations. So what America must be told today is that she must be born again. The whole structure of American life must be changed.” (May, 1967)

Link to more:

Dr. King talked often about our misguided values and priorities, and you can hear a sermon on this subject, which he preached on August 27, 1967 at Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago: “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.” The entire sermon is 25 minutes, but if you can’t listen to it all, listen to the first 8-1/2 minutes, which describes why we are fools if we have the wrong values. Go to this link on youtube.

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • As a Christian, what values do you have that are most important to you?
  • What are the values in our society that you like? Which ones do you think need to be changed?

MLK Lenten Reflections

Please see the menu to the right to read the MLK Lenten Reflections: ‘A Revolution of Values.”

We have honored King with a national holiday and a monument on the National Mall and most of us know his most famous speeches, but few of us are familiar with his profound spiritual teachings. His Christian faith was at the heart of all the work he did for justice and there is much we can learn from listening to this great Christian prophet and reflecting on his message.

If you are interested in learning from Dr. King, please join the MLK Lenten Reflection Group Email List and we will send you regular spiritual insights from his sermons, speeches and writing throughout Lent (February 14-March 31). You will get at least two short readings a week, links to recordings of Dr. King’s sermons and occasional questions you can use to reflect on your own spiritual growth. For those who want to do so, there will also be some opportunities to get together with others for informal conversations about what Dr. King’s message means for us today.

Please go to this page to sign up for the MLK Lenten Reflection Group List—or fill out one of the forms that will be available during worship services. You will be added to the list of group members and begin to receive information after Ash Wednesday. I hope you will join us and use the upcoming Lenten Season as a time to learn what Dr. King has to say to us today.

God Bless,

Roger Gench
Senior Pastor