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We are Led by the Spirit

May 12, 2020

When we are able to take a walk we often follow the same route to avoid the crowds around the lake and in town. Even though the route is the same, we are surprised by what the Spirit offers to us. Every day we see something different. This hummingbird was in full color on Tuesday morning. That is how the Spirit works as I study scripture and the lectionary. Even though the readings are the same every three years, something new always shimmers for me as I study, pray, reflect, and prepare. The lectionary readings are just as relevant now as they were the last time I studied them in preparation for preaching. Why is that? The answer for me is because it is the Spirit who leads and guides me.

The Spirit does indeed move in amazing ways when you stand still long enough and quiet your mind and heart. In these Be Still moments I am amazed at how the Spirit speaks, even when all I hear is silence. There have been plenty of times in my life when there has been so much external and internal “noise” that I couldn’t even hear myself think, let alone hear God’s gentle whisper.

In 1 Peter 3:13-22, advice is given to the first century Christians who faced persecution (torture and death) for following Jesus. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:14b-16a)

When I read these words I immediately thought of the Rev, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and the non-violent response to injustice while working towards Civil Rights for People of Color in the 60’s. He learned this way of protesting from Mahatma Gandhi who used this method to gain Freedom for the people of India from the British Empire. Gandhi also saw how quickly protest could turn violent and deeply damage the cause.

What gave Dr King the courage to do what he did for the cause of Civil Rights? I wondered that as Denise and I visited Selma, Alabama where we began the trail to Montgomery on the route which the marchers began on Sunday, March 7th, 1965 in what would become known as “Bloody Sunday.” The outright inhumanity in the actions of Law Enforcement and the white mob was horrifying. Reading accounts of that and seeing memorials is hard enough. But to actually live through it? Wow!

The Edmund Pettus Bridge where Bloody Sunday began. The bridge is named after a Confederate General, Edmund Pettus who was from Selma.

Denise tells a story about a man she met at a dinner put on by the non-profit she was the director of, “The Quest for Social Justice” in Mobile. They hosted “bridges” dinners in an effort to bring people of diverse backgrounds, races, and ideologies together over dinner and have guided discussions about certain issues of the day. This particular evening the topic was racial profiling. A quiet man at the table spoke up. His name was Jerry Pogue. Jerry was a quiet and unassuming giant of a man. He was asked if he had ever been racially profiled by law enforcement.

Jerry began his story, “Well, I’ve been arrested nine times but it was always for something I did.” He went on to explain that he had been a field organizer for Dr King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. On several occasions, police had to take him to the ER to be “patched up” before being taken to jail. The folks at the table (Denise was at the table and in awe) asked him why he never fought back against such brutality. He told them that Dr King had taught that they NEVER should fight back. The consequence of that would be further violence as they lost the moral high ground. Besides, Jerry said, my Daddy was a preacher and I knew that if I fought back I’d be put into solitary confinement. If I was in solitary, I couldn’t reach out to the people in jail who needed me to tell them about Jesus as my Daddy would have done. Dr Jerry Pogue’s Obituary

In my heart and mind, the only way I could see anyone doing that would be if they were being guided by something bigger than themselves. I see a glimpse of that in the Gospel reading for today from John 14:15-21.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him or knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:15-17a)

The commandments which Jesus taught were the fulfillment of all of the Law and the Prophets which are the undergirding of the Jewish faith. How did he fulfill them? It actually boiled down to two laws.

He said to him [the lawyer], “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
(Matthew 22:37-40)

The Spirit and the law of love are essential to being a Christ follower today just as it was in the first century. While we haven’t always done a very good job of following that law (especially the ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” part in Matthew 5:44!) the Spirit will guide us along that path if we listen for that guidance.

In this time of so much division, fear, and hatred, those who follow Jesus MUST be the difference. Jesus promised not to leave us orphaned (John 14:18a). Today, dear reader, we must hold onto that promise and walk where the Spirit guides us, even if it is into the Valley of the Shadows. Just as Jerry Pogue knew in his own life and work: Even though we walk through the Valley of the Shadows we will fear no evil for God is with us.

  1. thank you 🙂

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