Soul Food: King in His Own Words
Beloved in Christ, God’s people are a language community. We believe God creates with a word that will not return to heaven empty. Not only do we orient life by scripture, but we also make promises through covenants by giving and receiving vows taken in God’s presence. We aim our lives in the direction of words like justice and mercy, peace, and steadfast love. Our lives are turned around by words like repentance, and hope.
I would recommend to you the words of Dr. Martin Luther King today. Find a speech online. Take a title off the shelf. Look for quotes online. Better yet, go to https://youtu.be/ejU_mwEAYQc for our online MLK worship service and meditate on the words of King as the service returns to vignette after vignette of his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from August 28, 1963. You will be moved as I was.
During the service Ramiah Whiteside spoke of ‘mini-dreams’ that God blessed him with during a time of incarceration. Those mini dreams lifted him off the hamster wheel of the school to prison pipeline. He spoke about the power of going directly to Dr. King’s words. For him, ‘A Letter from the Birmingham jail’ was transformational.
In Strength to Love, King declared that ‘our most fruitful course is to stand firm, move forward nonviolently, accept disappointment and cling to hope.’ I have been so grateful for the work done on our quadrennial focus to increase racial justice and radical inclusion, but we are far from being a church without a hint of racism or the harm of othering.
We must remember that Jesus identifies with the despised not out of mere sympathy, but God’s divine reorganization and reclamation of the created order.
This gospel has the Spirit’s power to lift children being harmed by broken systems, and to relieve the church of its complacency—this is a gospel that frees the smallest life from oppression and rejects systems of discrimination and patterns of prejudice.
I believe only pure and humble love is the essence of life.
God, help us bring together a church that does not allow the evil of racism for even a single moment, and finds those who are always lost and in trouble. Grant that we may befriend the lonely, and generously serve those in need of help. Make us courageous in our practice of the love of Christ.
This year in December the King family asked that our nation focus on voting rights legislation to ensure all people have access to the polls and that congressional district maps and voting mechanisms would not be stained by partisan advantage. We have a long way to go so that justice and mercy are more than mere words. In the spirit of John Wesley, we are called forward by God to grow in love by means of holiness that is personal and social.
O God, make room in our systems and our steps for the liberating activity of Jesus Christ. We know God’s word will not return to heaven empty and the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring with the harmonies of liberty. Thank God. Let us march on till victory is won. Amen and Amen.
Know that I am praying for you.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).