wednesday night at our house of refuge sage facilitated a really cool thing on prayer beads (more on that next week with some pictures, too!). he ended our conversation with an excerpt from one of martin luther king’s sermons. man it was good! so inspiring and so interesting that 40 years later (this speech was delivered in 1965) it still applies just as clearly. you see, oppression is still rampant. poverty keeps increasing, not decreasing. hate is on the rise. exclusivity is still tolerated. i do think we’re experiencing a season where a little extra love is in the air, there’s something happening out in the world, not just the church, that says “something’s just not right and i’m not going to stand by and let it happen” but we clearly have a long way to go.
one of the things i love about the Bible is the story, the bigger story, and what it means for me, for us. i think of the israelites and God’s call to lead them out of slavery, out of egypt, into the promised land and how hard it was for them to go there. they hemmed, they hawed. they kept wanting to go back. the giants were too big and the food stunk. there were all kinds of reasons why “it wouldn’t work” and their humanness kept drawing them back to old ways that wasn’t God’s heart for his people. he knew there was a better way, a better place. he wanted them to taste the promised land. to experience it. to lead them there.
i believe God’s always saying “there’s a better way.”
i think this is happening right now in the Kingdom. there are some of us out there who are tired of the oppression, the disparity, that our neighbors are hungry, that church has become a business and mommies who go there are on welfare, that little kids in uganda are getting stolen from their houses and brainwashed to commit heinous crimes against their people, that lavish feasts are being eaten two villages down from where people are starving to death. that women and children are exploited and used and abused but pornography has become “just what boys do”, that how much it takes to feed a family keeps increasing and how much we make keeps decreasing, that health insurance is a luxury, that darkness and hate is more natural than goodness and love, that power and money continue to trump human dignity.
there’s got to be a better way.
clearly we are not in the promised land. the disparity is still too big. mountains need to be moved. we can’t just sit by anymore and let our fellow man suffer while we live the high life. i think if we listen close enough we can hear a “holy discontent” inside of us, a stirring that “something just isn’t right” and we need to do something about it, to inch toward Christ’s “kingdom come” here and now instead of just biding our time until heaven. martin luther king brings us back to the same story, the story of the israelites moving out of oppression into freedom. the whole speech is amazing and i am only sharing one little teeny snippet that doesn’t give it justice. here’s one of the things he says about moving toward a better way:
“they had to realize that before they could get to the promised land, they had to face gigantic mountains and prodicious hillltops. and so, as a resut of this realization, three groups of people emerged. one group said in substance that “we would rather go back to egypt.” they preferred the flush parts of egypt to the challenges of the promised land. a second group abhorred the idea of going back to egypt, and yet they abhored the idea of facing the difficulties of moving ahead to the promised land and they somehow wanted to remain stationary and chooose the line of least resistance. there was a third group, probably influenced by caleb and joshua who had gone over to spy a bit and who admitted that there were giants in the land but who said, “we can posses the land.” this group said in substance that “we will go on in spite of…., “ that “we will not allow anything to stop us,” that “we will move on amid the difficulties, amid the trials, amid the tribulations.”
i will be honest, sometimes i am like the first group. i just want to go back to egypt, to the safety and protection of what was predictable, clear, known—even if it sucked—or at least bury my head in the sand and pretend like nothing’s wrong in this world. my life is fine, can’t i just live it? then i am sometimes in the second group, the ones who want to get there, who believe it’s possible, but it is just too complicated so why try? “it’s useless…the system is too big…it’s been like this for centuries…there’s not much i can do” so i remain paralyzed. and then there are other days where i’m in the third group, holding a placard that says “now is the time for love” (my daddy was a true blue hippy in san francisco in the 60’s!) and a fire in my belly that says “it has got to be better. this is worth fighting for. as christ followers we will not sit by while our fellow human continue to struggle. i must care enough to do something about it”
so in these moments we go “yeah, well, so what can i really do?….i can’t move a mountain. i can’t start a movement. i can’t really make a difference. i can’t do what it takes to get to any kind of promised land this side of heaven, my life is hard enough to manage…kathy, you’re just making me feel guilty.” this is what keeps so many of us paralyzed. a pervasive thought that it’s just all too big for us so why bother?
here’s why we need to bother: it could be us. it is us. when it’s our neighbor, it’s us. and we don’t get to give up just because it’s hard and complicated.
Jesus makes this pretty clear—following His ways means loving our neighbor, sacrificing ourselves on behalf of another. i think that’s all i’m proposing to change the world—just a little more love, a little more stepping in, a little more advocating when someone can’t advocate for themselves, a little more showing up instead of avoiding, a little more “i won’t let you get bullied”, a little more feeling uncomfortable but learning how to open our homes and hearts to people who are different for us, a little more generosity and giving away stuff instead of hoarding it, a little more making room on the bus, a little more “i would like to learn from you” instead of having all the answers, a little more “i believe in you and i won’t give up on you.” i actually don’t think any of these things are super complicated; they’re sometimes just a little foreign.
each one of those moments, to me, is a taste of the promised land. here. now. i think it moves mountains.