These comments were offered today at our Easter service at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House.
The article referred to by Bob Herbert is from The New York Times, April 2, 2010 and can be found here:
Earlier this week in the New York Times, Bob Herbert wrote about a speech The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave on this day, April 4, 1967.
As Herbert describes it:
The great man was moving with what seemed like great reluctance. He knew as he climbed from the car in Upper Manhattan that he was stepping into the maelstrom, that there were powerful people who would not react kindly to what he had to say.
“I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “because my conscience leaves me no other choice.”
King entered the Riverside Church and addressed more than 3,000 people gathered, telling them that silence in the face of the horror that was taking place in Vietnam amounted to a betrayal.
He warned: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Perhaps, in fact I think it is mostly true, that this is a silence of two places that are likely one: a fear of doing the wrong thing and the fear of being accused of doing the wrong thing.
So, we sometimes look elsewhere to more comfortable place, finding ourselves suspended in silence or engaged in protracted processes that postpone any chance for courage and change. We look back too far, too much. We look forward too far, too often. And we end up between the two – making distinctions that make no difference. Frozen, dismayed, discouraged; turning more and more toward isolation, observation, and inaction. In a word: fear.
I do believe Jesus must have had fear, but it did not drive him. He was guided by something more powerful.
In this morning’s gospel, when the women, the faithful women came to the tomb, the angel, the heart, the one who stood there said,
“I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here…”
In all the readings and worship that will take place around the world today, among the many messages one I think is clear: “Jesus is not in the tomb. Not then, not today. Don’t waste your time looking for him in such a place.”
As the women ran toward Galilee to tell the others what they had been told, suddenly Jesus was among them, “there in their path.”
The horror of silence that The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed has been long shattered by this risen Jesus. The question is, do we believe that? And, if so what risks are we willing to take? How are we willing to speak out and act for others.
What drives us?
All week long, I have been meditating on a comment in Michale Lindvall’s book The Christian Life: A Geography of God in which he says that Jesus faced the choice of compromise or crucifix.
That lay heavily upon me all week, through Maundy Thursday and into Good Friday. On Friday, I had a chance to sit here in meditation from 12 – 3. I pretty much sat still all the time. I kept thinking that if Jesus could hang on the cross for those hours, it’s not such a big deal to sit here.
I let the thoughts come and go…and the “compromise or crucifix” came to mind. I knew Jesus didn’t compromise, but I am also not ready to be crucified. I kept thinking that in a world of negotiation are we supposed to compromise, when folks are hungry, out of work, marginalized, oppressed, and dehumanized.
Then the thought occurred to me that maybe it’s not we who are supposed to compromise.
If love is unconditional, and we come from the Love that we believe is God and Jesus in God and Spirit – that is enough to take this all to a new level, out of a place of negotiation to love.
It also occurs to me that love is a resurrection from a places of divisiveness and oppression – and is not compromisable. I may not always do it right – but that doesn’t change the truth – love can never be a compromise.
It is a path we follow. It is the one that Jesus led us to and promises to be beside us as this morning’s gospel reminds us.
There can be no place for silence when such joy is in our lives. “For were we silent, even the stones would call out!”
Love is a joy that surpasses the easy and the hard times, rooted in the Good News. It is the well of courage and action and, yes, God. But then, you know all that!
Mr. Herbert says later in his article on Dr. King, which by the way is titled, “We Still Don’t Hear Him…”
[Dr. King’s] bold stand seems all the more striking in today’s atmosphere, in which moral courage among the very prominent — the kind of courage that carries real risk — seems mostly to have disappeared.
Be that as it may, moral courage is not for the prominent. It is for us all. It is the balm that heals the horror of silence and leads us to the Risen Path of unconditional love.
May you find such Jesus, such God, in all the ways you know God – now!
Yes, he is risen indeed.