Martin Luther King, Jr. – a prayer

Thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive but dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will. Give us the courage to do your will. Give us the devotion to love your will. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I Have a Dream” and More

dr-martin-luther-king-i-have-a-dream-speech

Every year on this day set aside for celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I make time to listen to or read his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” I encourage you today to read the speech or watch (below) the roughly seventeen-minute speech that King gave over fifty years ago. He articulates a vision that transcends his individual life and puts into eloquent words the deepest longings of many people not only then but also now. This speech still rings with power, reminding us that, as he said, “Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.” We have come so far but we still have so far to go.

If you want to take this a step further, consider reading King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” or Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.”

Bibliography for Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “Becoming Real,” which is the third part of an extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew, focusing on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.

Bibliography for “Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount” [Gospel of Matthew, part 3]

Dale C. J. Allison. The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination. New York: Herder, 1999.

Augustine of Hippo. Augustine: Sermon on the Mount. NPNF, series 1, vol. 6. Ed. by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

Kenneth E. Bailey. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.

Jeannine K. Brown and Kyle Roberts. Matthew. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018.

Michael Joseph Brown. “The Gospel of Matthew.” In True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, edited by Brian K. Blount, 85-120. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007.

John Calvin. A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Volume 1. Trans. By A. W. Morrison. Calvin’s Commentaries. Ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972.

John Chrysostom. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew. NPNF, series 1, vol. 10. Ed. by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

R. T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Jeffrey P. Greenman, Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer, eds. The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007.

Romano Guardini. The Lord. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1954.

Robert A. Guelich. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Waco, TX: Word, 1982.

Craig S. Keener. Matthew. IVPNTC. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Amy-Jill Levine. The Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven. Nashville: Abingdon, 2019.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960.

Martin Luther. The Place of Trust: Martin Luther on the Sermon on the Mount. Ed. by Martin E. Marty. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1983.

Scot McKnight. “Matthew, Gospel of.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 526-541. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

________. Sermon on the Mount. The Story of God Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

F. B. Meyer. Blessed Are Ye: Talks on the Beatitudes. New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1898.

Jonathan T. Pennington. The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2018.

Manlio Simonetti, editor. Matthew 1-13. ACCS. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.

G. N. Stanton. ”Sermon on the Mount/Plain.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 735-744. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

John R. W. Stott. The Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Charles H. Talbert. Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2004.

Helmut Thielicke. Life Can Begin Again: Sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. Trans. By John W. Doberstein. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963.

Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr. Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels, 5th edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992.

Miroslav Volf. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1996.

Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1998.

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 January 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Sebastian Kim“Democracy, ‘The Problem of Minorities,’ and the Theology of the Common Good” – In this brief, but informative essay, Sebastian Chang Hwan Kim, Academic Dean for the Korean Center and Robert Wiley Professor of Renewal and Public Life at Fuller School of Theology, offers a helpful exploration of theology for the common good. Engaging with other prevalent theologies for public engagement, Kim suggest some meaningful ways in which we as Christians can step into the public sphere for the good of all without relinquishing our theological footing.


Praying for the World“Prayers and Praises from the World’s Hardest Places to Be a Christian” – Just over two weeks ago, Open Doors released their annual “World Watch List,” which tracks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to follow Jesus. I strongly encourage you to explore the amazing resource that Open Doors has assembled there, but also want to encourage you to take a look at this resource from Christianity Today. Here, CT has assembled both praises and prayers not merely for that part of the world but from believers in many of those countries. This is a very helpful resource for intercessory prayer for the world.


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Jesus and John Wayne – a series of reviews” – One of the most thought-provoking religious books of the past year is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. The title itself may either draw you in or frustrate you, but the book has sent ripples through the church. It was through church historian John Fea that I first heard about a series of reviews of the book at the Mere Orthodoxy website. If you’re interested in the book (love it or dislike it) or if you’ve never heard of the book, consider reading this series of reviews for appreciative, reflective, and critical responses, often intermixed in each essay:


Wintering“How ‘Wintering’ Replenishes” – In this interview by Krista Tippett from On Being, Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times speaks to something many of us have felt in this past year of trials and challenges. Here’s the description from On Being: “In so many stories and fables that shape us, cold and snow, the closing in of the light — these have deep psychological as much as physical reality. This is “wintering,” as the English writer Katherine May illuminates in her beautiful, meditative book of that title — wintering as at once a season of the natural world, a respite our bodies require, and a state of mind. It’s one way to describe our pandemic year: as one big extended communal experience of wintering. Some of us are laboring harder than ever on its front lines and also on its home front of parenting. All of us are exhausted. This conversation with Katherine May helps.”


Jefferson Bible Jesus“What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus” – Vinson Cunningham offers an insightful review of Peter Manseau’s The Jefferson Bible: A Biography in The New Yorker, touching upon not only Jefferson, but also Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Howard Thurman: “Jefferson, meanwhile, was mulling a book project. He imagined it as a work of comparative moral philosophy, which would include a survey of ‘the most remarkable of the ancient philosophers,’ then swiftly address the ‘repulsive’ ethics of the Jews, before demonstrating that the ‘system of morality’ offered by Jesus was ‘the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught.’ This sublimity, however, would need to be rescued from the Gospels, which were—as Jefferson put it in a letter to the English chemist, philosopher, and minister Joseph Priestley—written by ‘the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him.'”


Music: Víkingur Ólafsson, “Philip Glass: Études, No. 2,” from Glass Piano Works | recorded at the Yellow Lounge

The Continuing Relevance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

On this day celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to remind us of one of the most significant writings by Martin Luther King, Jr., his letter from a Birmingham jail. Written after King’s arrest, along with 50 others, on April 12, 1963, as part of the Birmingham Campaign to shine a spotlight on the racist treatment suffered by African Americans in one of the most segregated cities in America. Letter from a Birmingham jail is a direct response to criticism that King and the protestors received from religious leaders through an open letter in a local newspaper.

While there is much that could be said about MLK as a leader, orator, pastor, and husband, I want to encourage us to read or listen to the letter (roughly an hour long as read by King). The issues he addresses continue to be important for our day and time as we wrestle with how our faith relates to the public sphere, just and unjust laws, consideration of how our Christian faith moves us to action or to wait, and what it means to lives as kingdom citizens while seeking to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24).

Here are a striking excerpt from the letter:

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

You may also want to explore more of King’s writings, sermons, and speeches through the compilation work A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2003).