Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dr. King, a Jail, and a Timely Admonition

I'm not sure it's an exception to the norm but, as a progenitor from a small southern town, I spent time reading the sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr whilst in the early days of my spiritual wrestling to live out my faith in a culture that was swimming (and I mean vigorously so) upstream against the current flowing from the headwaters of Christ's example and commands in the scriptures.

My roots, without question, sprout from the scriptures, His Spirit, regeneration, the influence of my father, and the nurture of the body of Christ; nonetheless, the example and words of an exemplary man who was murdered when I was seven can inform my practice in the context of life into which I was born and the broader context in which I now live.

So, when I came across the following excerpt from Dr. King's writings from a Birmingham jail, I was struck again by the relevance of his words. May it resonate for you, too.

Read and enjoy- even more- change and lead.
"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 arch defender 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." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Letter from Birmingham Jail

Thanks to Austin at emergingtruth for his post that set this recollection in motion. It's a good reminder to challenge the status quo.

I don't know your ecclesiology; but, it seems reasonable that if a group of people, gathered for a purpose, miss the example of Christ, they may be called many things but a church - faithful to "obey all Christ has commanded"- is not on the list of monikers they should embrace.

“It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.”
Richard Foster

(Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco; The 25th Anniversary Edition: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.)

The issues (albeit racism is still more of an issue than we may admit) today may vary; however, are we not called to be a people of God (with local expression) about the purposes of God, in step with the Word of God, and empowered by the Spirit of God, in a culture to whom we are called and set apart to serve? If this is true, drifting at ease with the status quo is not an option. Why? The gospel changes everything.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Areopagus at Star Coffee

This week of work came to a close with a Saturday to spare before returning home. I’m looking forward to getting back but, with the day free, seizing the chance to hang out in Heidelberg is a good option.

It’s not the Areopagus at the invitation of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, however, Star Coffee, in the Altstadt, seems like a good place to get a feel for the city.

Hanging out with the locals is a practice I cherish. It’s a good one, too – at least if you’re more into people than castles. Lingering to read, to chat, to people watch, and take in the relational and local context environs is a good way to check the pulse of most communities. Heidelberg is no exception. It is buzzing with folks meeting, engaging, gazing to listen, and smiling – for the most part – at least it is so today.

I think Paul would add Star Coffee as a point of contact - along with synagogues and the marketplace in his practice of initiating in the culture - if he were here in this slice of time. Who knows? He may have ordered a double espresso macchiato and enjoyed a chat with a few of the folks lingering here, heute?

I know it’s not exactly preaching or reasoning with the Jews in synagogue but I really don’t think café preaching is on the list of best praxis for “how to engage the people of Heidelberg at Star Coffee”; nonetheless, I suspect he’d hang out - maybe frequently-here anyway. And, I bet, if he’d keep at it long enough, he’d find numerous invitations to visit the Areopagus of numerous hearts here in Heidelberg.


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