This spring and summer at Bloom we’ll be working through a series on the Sermon on the Mount. I absolutely can’t wait to get started. I think the Sermon on the Mount, in one way or another, basically says it all about how God’s people are to embody their “difference” in the world, and I’m REALLY looking forward to blowing some misconceptions about the Sermon out of the water. I think it’s going to be a really healthy and wonderful and challenging time for our community.
Yesterday, in a conversation with my esteemed colleague Austin, he mentioned that he had been reading through Martin Luther King Jr’s book “Strength to Love.” As we conversed, it became pretty clear that if ANYONE in the 20th century embodied the Sermon on the Mount, it was Dr. King. I couldn’t help but remember a quote of his I ran across recently. After being imprisoned for his part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott (recall Rosa Parks), he wrote and then later delivered this sermon on Christmas in 1967:
”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
Jesus, in a memorable moment in the Sermon on the Mount declared, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5)
Jesus seemed to think that non-violent, truth-telling enemy-love was the purest expression of God’s “God-ness” manifested in the lives of human beings here on earth. I think that’s probably what compels us about the life of MLK Jr. He lived it. He really lived it. And the victory he prophesied, a double-victory of love over all the powers of darkness and hate and evil … the powers that divide and enslave us … came to pass. We’re the beneficiaries. Because someone had the balls to believe in the Kingdom of God and live it out.
I wonder what that looks like now… I’m sure your fertile imaginations can think of a few examples 😉
Praying that God gives our little flock the grace and strength to see and live out the vision of the Kingdom here in Denver…