Tomorrow we will commemorate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and remember that this day is also the 50th anniversary of his assassination, April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
Dr. King’s preaching, teaching, and visionary leadership of compassion as a prophet helped us all dream of the “beloved community” where all people were included in a world where justice was color-blind and all of God’s children were not judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character. In this, he continually reminded us of what America was created to be and even offered this example in a sermon, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, on or near July 4 of 1965; by receipting these profound words from the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence:
“ ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
And he went on to summarize:
“This is a dream. It’s a great dream.”
“The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say, ‘some men’; it says ‘all men.’ It doesn’t say ‘all white men’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes black men. It does not say ‘all Gentiles’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Jews. It doesn’t say ‘all Protestants’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Catholics. It doesn’t even say ‘all theists and believers’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes humanists and agnostics.”
We are ALL equal and we must continue to strive for that equality for every person of every color from every walk of life and theological background – in every place in the world.
2018 also marks the 50th anniversary of The United Methodist Church. We have never been a perfect church; however, we have always been a praying church, a singing church, a marching church, and a church of transformation. At our best, our desire is to be made perfect in God’s love and as the Old Testament Prophet warns; “seek good and not evil.”
So why are some United Methodists joining with other faith communities to march in Washington D.C. and a variety of other places around the country, on April 4?
Our Baptismal Covenant.
The Baptismal Covenant in our United Methodist Hymnal asks,” Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent of your (our) sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and, oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” (page 34). Out of response to this Covenant, we recognize the call to be the light in times of darkness.
Our Wesleyan Roots.
In his sermon, “A Caution Against Bigotry” John Wesley defines bigotry as, “too strong of an attachment to, or fondness; for our own party, opinion, church or religion.” We approach this march with humility because God’s work through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is to “cast out the works of the devil” and as Wesley reports in his notes on the New Testament our job is “to spread the fire of heavenly love over all the earth.” We recognize that our pursuit of holiness must include a love for justice.
We, as United Methodists, address racial justice in our Constitution as a denomination. Our Book of Discipline states, “The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate the sin of racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large.” (The 2016 Book of Discipline, Part 1 The Constitution, Article V, page 26)
A Sign Act of Commitment.
We can celebrate the many ways we continue to make strides in our commitment to “Being Hope” to the world through our many ministries across communities where our local United Methodist congregations and related institutions are in Indiana, as well as throughout the Connection. We are called to be harbingers of hope, and that is a blessing in many ways.
However, hope is not a strategy. We engender hope in the future, in part, through ensuring that we will not return to our the unfortunate times of our past. Marching is an action demonstrating that we will continue to renounce racism and bigotry as Christians and commit to living in accordance with the rule of Christ.
“Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 7:12 (CEB)
As we march, we show current and future generations our continued commitment to treat all people with dignity and respect as we continue to repent for our misdeeds.
Because Together, We Are More.
As I presided at my first annual conference as a bishop in 2009 in Iowa, I participated in a 3.5-mile walk as part of the activities to commence the conference session. I walked alongside a lay member wearing a t-shirt with “Walking to Cure Alzheimer’s” written on it. I learned so much about the challenge my neighbor was facing living with a husband who had early onset of this disease. I was encouraged by her faithfulness and her willingness and need to share her journey. Marching (or walking) together is prayer in motion and a symbol of The Church standing for what is just – and that is when we are at our best.
The work for justice and a world free of racism cannot be done at arm’s length. It can only be done with our arms united as we walk together, sing together, learn together, stand together, and pray together.
“But let Justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24 (CEB)
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
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