conjectural navel gazing; jesus in lint form

Sermon: Glad News of Deliverance

Posted January 18, 2014 @ 4:27pm | by Tripp

I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation;
behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know.
Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; •
I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth
from the great congregation.

I wonder if we could actually take a deep breath and join the Psalmist and wonder aloud together what it might mean to proclaim deliverance or God’s righteousness in the great congregation

What would it be like to let the world know that there is a God and we have heard from God and we believe God has a word to give to all people; a word that can actually change people’s lives for the better, that can help us to be better neighbors, to live in peace with one another, to live in harmony, in equity.


What would it be like to proclaim the Beloved Community?

Last Sunday we spent some time praying and thinking about being beloved. Good morning, Beloved.

This week, I invite us all to turn our minds and hearts to the ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. specifically to being the Beloved Community. The Gospel of Christ that is entrusted to us is not an individual mandate, though it is certainly a personal one. No, the Gospel of Christ is a communal call to justice, peace-making, and economic fairness. Dr. King proclaimed this challenging vision of the Gospel through out his ministry. This is the vision of The Beloved Community.

The King Center defines The Beloved Community in this way:

"For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence."

This vision take work because it takes inequality and freedom seriously. It must be non-violent if people are to enter into this life freely. To seek liberation and lasting reconciliation, people must be free. The movement has to be non-violent.

Utopianism, on the other hand, is totalitarian, coercive to the core.

This is why Dr. King eschewed it so religiously. Liberty must be the cornerstone for any body of people calling itself Beloved Community.

As a specifically religious vision, Dr. King was rather Baptisty about it all.

The Beloved Community is not a pollyanna vision of shiny happy people holding hands, or that tame vision of singers on a hillside in a soda commercial. Rather, Dr. King asserted that such “[change] does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

Why is that?
Why does it have to be so hard?
Why can't we all just get along?
I think it has everything to do with liberty.

Liberty of conscience and action is essential to such a vision. Liberty is the fruit of belovedness. Be loved. Be free.

But liberty is not without cost, it does not come without effort. Liberty comes with the necessity of God’s grace and human forgiveness. Reconciliation is work. But it is not without assistance. The Psalmist understood this.

Though I am poor and needy, 
  
the Lord cares for me.
  
You are my helper and my deliverer; 
O my God, make no delay.

Dr. King understood that God has given humanity liberty and responsibility (a difficult tension to be sure) to respond to the vision of The Beloved Community. In part, it is this tension that makes the notion so revolutionary.

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable," proclaimed Dr. King. "Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."

The renewal of community, the blessing of the ties that bind us to one another, is potent only if we are free to respond to the Spirit that calls us to such work. It cannot be Puritanism, doctrinalism, essentialism, fundamentalism or some other coercive means of making people get along.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is precisely why Dr. King exhorts us to take our religion seriously.

We prayed these words from his Letter.

We remember Martin's lament that
"the contemporary church is often a weak, 
ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.
It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo.
Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church,
the power structure of the average community 
is consoled by the church's silent and often vocal sanction 
of things as they are."

We are called to take our religion seriously. We are to do so that we might be free to follow Christ, free to be the Beloved Community, free to be witnesses to the deliverance that has already been bestowed upon all human kind. And to do so non-violently.

I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation;
behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know.
Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth
from the great congregation.

The most revolutionary thing we can do as Christians is to take our religion seriously;
to take worship seriously;
to take the Bible seriously;
to take Christ's ministry in the world seriously;
to act upon the deliverance offered to us
again,
and again,
and again,
and again.

We each, however, have our reasons why we won't.
We have our own fears or aspirations.

Maybe we think we’re too young.
Maybe we think we’re too old.
Maybe we think we’re too small or poor or busy or have too much to lose.

I don’t know what to think.
Maybe I think too much.

There are so many excuses. Dr. King knew that. He laid them out for us in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail.

We have plenty of good reasons to be careful and “deliberative” in how we move forward. And yet...

…What if we were just a little more brave? Even reckless? What if we rethought this thing called church in such a way that we proclaimed and acted upon the promises of God with greater clarity? We can, you know. The Psalmist offers this to us.

Though I am poor and needy, 
  
the Lord cares for me.
  
You are my helper and my deliverer;
 
   O my God, make no delay.

What if we stood on the street corner and told our stories of God’s deliverance, of salvation, and of grace?

God will not delay.

Jesus spoke aloud and in public about the trouble that he witnessed.
Jesus spoke aloud and in public about the grace that he witnessed.

God will not delay.

Dr. King followed that example, the example of the Prophets, of Christ, of the apostles, the disciples, of the women and men who also spoke aloud in public about trouble and grace.

God will not delay.

We are invited to take this call seriously so that we too might proclaim God’s deliverance, the deliverance that is for all people.

What if we lifted our voices with the Psalmist and sang,

I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation;
behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know. 

 
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