Today we celebrate the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. The collect for the feast of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. is as follows:
Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Certainly this is a worthy prayer for all of God's people to meditate upon. How do we resist oppression in our own day? God will lead us, but are we willing to follow? In a reading from Justice Without Violence, by Martin Luther King, Jr., we are encouraged to think of those that oppose freedom as friends. Mr. King writes, "The ultimate end of violence is to defeat the opponent. The ultimate end of non-violence is to win the friendship of the opponent." Those are heavy words. I've often found myself trying to argue my case, trying to convince my opponent, and hoping to win the argument. Could this very action be a form of oppression that an opponent naturally recoils from? We are called, according to Mr. King, to reconciliation. When I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, Bishop Borsch encouraged those present to be ambassadors for Christ and work for reconciliation. Mr. King suggests that the aftermath of violence is always bitterness, but the aftermath of non-violence is redemption and reconciliation.
How is this transformation possible? How can I love my enemy? How can my enemy become my friend? It was suggested in a student sermon today that it is the working of the Holy Spirit that makes this possible. The cool breath of the Holy Spirit can melt my anger at injustice. Blind rage cannot answer injustice. It is not possible to rid the world of the opponent, but it is possible to win friendship through love and understanding. This work, this hard work, seems unnatural and contains much that I find distasteful. How can I forgive those who deny my rights? How can I sit back and let others walk all over me and those I care for? However, we are not called to be doormats, but to open doors of dialogue. We are called to a ministry of radical inclusion. Those who differ from us are important to us. Every "body" is needed to complete the puzzle and help us make meaning. Therefore, we must not only pray for the conversion of the world, but for the conversion of our own hearts. We must neither house the perpetrator and oppressor within, but we must not shut the door of mutuality and hope. All things are possible with God. All hearts can be warmed by the flames of charity. Use my hands Lord. Use my tongue. Ignite my heart with imposible love.
Ignite in us, O Lord, the fire of your love, and the flames of eternal charity. Amen.