Coming off of InterVarsity’s National Staff Conference (which I will be blogging about soon!), I was challenged with a vision that InterVarsity can not only see students’ lives transformed by the Gospel, but see the WHOLE UNIVERSITY transformed by the Gospel. I was inspired by the story of Scripture which says that God so loved the WORLD that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. My heart stirred at the thought of all creation groaning and crying out, waiting for release, waiting for redemption and for God to make all things new. I prayed with my 1,200 colleagues, “Let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done, on earth as it is heaven…”
I left believing afresh that God was at work in my world moving actively and powerfully.
It was in this place that I encountered yet again the prophet, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I’m thankful as a nation we annually commemorate his life, because each year I am challenged anew at not just His life, but the God that he so faithfully served.
When I was a kid, I read a 60-page scholastic biography of Dr. King and read the book so often that the pages fell out. It was one of my favorite books, next to Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Boxcar Children. Yet I don’t remember much from the book apart from the fact that Dr. King’s friends and family called him “M.L.” and I wanted to call myself “A.S.” until I thought that would sound like I was calling myself “Ass.” But it captured the attention of an 8-year-old.
Now this 26-year-old is in awe of a man who boldly lived out His faith in profound and effective ways.
I spent a portion of this afternoon listening to Dr. King’s sermon, “Beyond Vietnam” at Riverside Church in New York City in April of 1967. I actually picked it at random. I wanted to listen to a Dr. King sermon for my quiet time. And while random, I genuinely believe that the Lord wanted to speak to me through Dr. King’s words. I sat in the Evanston coffee shop, headphones on, mesmerized by King’s words and how the transcendant truths of the Kingdom of God were incarnated into the tumultuous, complex issues of late 60s political arena.
Before I go further, I should point out the obvious and say that there are a lot more eloquent, learned and SUCCINCT reflections on Dr. King, and perhaps your time is better spent reading them instead of what may turn out to be a long-winded entry filled with giant quotes. I’m thinking specifically of Tim Wise’s editorial challenging of Michelle Obama and the prevalent temptation to depoliticize and sanitize Dr. King’s political legacy. Or a Troy Jackson’s reminder to not just reflect on Dr. King but take action and work for Biblical social change. Or finally Jerrod McKenna’s fascinating blog on how Dr. King’s legacy relates to the current fight against climate change.
But personally I just wanted to blog to process Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech and put down on “paper” some of the ways I’m responding to Dr. King’s words from over four decades ago. His words came just about a year before his untimely death and was perhaps the first and strongest public repudiation of the Vietnam war. And this speech contains some really rich passages that give us clues to Dr. King’s deeper beliefs about God, society and the motivations for his ministry.
I’m including some of my favorite excerpts from the speech, but to be honest, I think the WHOLE speech is worth listening to. I’d highly recommend taking some time to listen to the entire speech. If you actually read this far into this entry, I implore you to listen to the speech. Because each of the excerpts I’m going to paste below really come out strongest in the context of the whole argument Dr. King makes. But here are some reflections, with excerpts from Dr. King’s speech in grey:
1. Dr. King saw a fundamental component of His role as a minister of Jesus Christ to make peace and work for the poor and oppressed around the world.
I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Continue reading