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Love, Justice, and Mercy

February 23, 2019

Love, Justice, and Mercy… these are qualities that are much needed in today’s world. The first time I visited the Civil Right’s Memorial outside of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama was in 1990 when I was attending a course at the USAF Chaplain Service Institute. The monument (designed by Maya Lin who also designed the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, DC) reminds me of the dream of Dr King and the call of Jesus to be instruments of God’s blessing and reconciliation.

As I visited with the young Security Guard that evening, I had a lesson in the experience of hatred and fear… this was, of course, decades before the #BlackLivesMatter movement. He described to this naive young Minnesotan how the Center which fought for the rights of Black men and women in the South (and also in the rest of the US) had glass windows that were bomb-proof, not just bullet-proof! He told me about the cars that would occasionally drive by slowly with white racists who sought to intimidate him. It truly was an eye-opener for me.

This weekend, Denise and I co-led an Officer’s Retreat for the Ruling Elders and Deacons of Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. One of the myriad of subjects we explored was the Book of Confessions which is Part I of the PC(USA)’s Constitution. Two that hit close to home given the current environment in parts of the US and World were the Belhar Confession and the Confession of 1967. In South Africa, where the Belhar Confession was born, Apartheid was the law of the land. In the US, Racism and Segregation were the law of much of the land and lynchings were the methods of such Terrorist Organizations as the KKK.

It was in such a time that the voices of prophets such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr arose. What struck me particularly about Dr King’s voice was his commitment to Non-violence. In examples such as Dr King’s, I saw the difficult challenge of the words of Jesus from the Gospel Reading for the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany lived out — But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. (Luke 6:27-29)

Today so much of christianity (lower case is intentional) does the polar opposite of what Jesus calls us to do and to be. The racist terrorists of the KKK called themselves christians (again, lower case is intentional) yet they were filled with hatred for anyone who was different from them.

The message I hear from the Lord is not one of exclusion or hatred or fear. It is a message of Love, Justice, and Mercy. As I consider the Contemporary Confessions of the PC(USA), I think of movements for inclusion… movements for love versus fear or hatred… movements which seek to bind us together in the love of God.

At the closing worship for our Retreat, I shared this prayer of Dr King’s: We thank you for your church, founded upon your Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon you. Help us to realize that humanity was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace. Help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children — Black, White, Red, Brown and Yellow — will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the reign of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.

May God give us the strength and resolve, dear reader, to be that difference in this world filled with hatred and fear. May we live out the vision of such prophets as Dr King. And may we work towards the day when, as the prophet Amos said in one of Dr King’s favorite passages from Amos 5:24 — Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

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