November 1, 2020 | Message from Dr. Blake
When he saw the multitudes, he went up on the hill, and when he had sat down his students came to him, and he opened his mouth and taught them. Matthew 5: 1-2 (Clarence Jordan Translation)
What a morning this truly is – awesome! How grateful I am that we have lived to see it during this special time in the world and this nation in particular. It is a morning filled with beauty and promise, a morning that gladdens the heart and calls forth our best selves. I rejoice this day in the breath I have and the community of Fellowship Church. Yes, we are facing a great challenge, that of removing demonic principalities and powers, rulers of darkness. And we have the power and responsibility to do it. This is an obligation we have to Creation and all that dwell therein. It is a mighty task; and, we have had mighty tasks before that we have succeeded as a people and nation in achieving. While we have been thrown off-kilter by the outlandish threats of not accepting election results and race wars, there is another agenda that we must embrace. It is one of claiming and spreading the beauty of life and living just, merciful lives not merely as a goal we seek, but as something we embody now.
And she opened her mouth and taught them.
According to Dr. Howard Thurman, the historian, T. R. Glover, suggested that the empire [Roman] collapsed because the average Roman citizen had lost his sense of responsibility for the life of the empire. … he had civic privileges but little civic responsibilities. Without civic responsibility, there can be no civic character. Thurman posits that when one experiences the unity of life through a creative encounter with the holy, through the mystic vision, one wants to experience it in daily living. But, longing for this is not enough, the person must challenge the institutions and systems that prevent this unity from occurring. This makes clear our moral obligation to promote unity, not divisiveness. We are not separated as religious/spiritual people from what goes on in society, the secular. Indeed, we must question the false dichotomy of sacred and secular, a dichotomy unknown in many indigenous cultures. Economist, Amartya Sen, wrote: As people who live – in a broad sense – together, we cannot escape the thought that the terrible occurrences that we see around us are quintessentially our problems. They are our responsibility – whether they are also anyone else’s. Relieving the suffering of others is at the heart of many religious traditions. It was certainly what impelled much of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Otherwise, he could have just accepted middle class living without moral obligation. But he couldn’t do that. There was something in his spirit that buried this notion as an alternative to the suffering he would endure that others might have access to the tree of life. Thurman says of him: He was able to put at the center of his own personal religious experience a searching ethical awareness. . . . Racial prejudice, segregation, discrimination were not regarded by him as merely un-American, undemocratic, but as mortal sin against God.
Many of us recognize the opening quote or scripture as the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. When he saw the multitudes, he went up on the hill [Mountain], and when he had sat down his students came to him, and he opened his mouth and taught them. Matthew 5: 1-2 (Clarence Jordan Translation)
Clarence Jordan instructs us to bear in mind that he taught them. This is not a sermon. This is the Lesson on the Mount. There’s a difference between a sermon and a lesson. A sermon is something you sleep through and tell the preacher you enjoyed. But a lesson is something which is assigned and for which you are held responsible. You don’t sleep through lessons, only sermons. Jordan sees these beatitudes as Jesus’s instructions about the metamorphosis that occurs when we decide to embrace and immerse ourselves in the Movement, the Revolution. They are part of the new philosophy, awareness, consciousness, stair steps into the new order, the kin-dom of God, Heaven, the Realm of Right Living. Let’s just look at a couple of affirmations. Jordan translates Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted as They who are concerned to the point of action shall see their concerns fulfilled. Jordan explains that there is a difference between mourning and weeping. Although tears may be shed, they are not essential to mourning, but deep concern is. Mourn in the context in which Jordan is speaking means being so concerned about life, that we are willing to do something to address the inequities, the problems, the sins of society. It means to act for a new way of being. This is a declaration from Jesus that They who act on their convictions are God’s people, for they will see their ideas become reality. What a blessing this is for all of us. When we act, commit ourselves to this new community that is to come, we partake in its realization. I think this is what Dr. King meant when he said that he had seen the Promised Land. There was certainly a type of fulfillment even while disheartened, a satisfaction that he had given what he could and that his efforts were not in vain. This is a message for all of us who get stressed much too easily about the state of the nation, who want to move to another country, cop-out of society, pull the cover over our heads and sleep. This blessing is a guarantee that our commitment will be realized. That is our reward. Much of the religion in the time of Jesus was externalized. It was ritualized as ways to be seen, noticed, and considered important. That was the reward sought. Jesus rejected all that outward show of religiosity. They that mourn in the sense in which Jordan uses the term shall be comforted, strengthened, encouraged. Let’s peer into another instruction very briefly. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled is translated in the following way. They who have an unsatisfied appetite for the right are God’s people and they will be given plenty to chew on. Jesus is talking about the hunger for right relationships, the types of relationships characteristic of the kin-dom of God. It is a hunger to be just, merciful [kind], and to walk and live assuredly in alignment with the All-Pervading Presence. It is a hunger that speaks to our deepest longings for connection and relationship with our sisters and brothers and their welfare. We have an important future before us; and, a moral responsibility to vote in this election. So much is at stake. Cultural and unknown saints resting now from their labor sacrificed livelihood, health, and even their lives to secure this right. They perceived voting as a critical strategy for greater, more inclusive participation in the common life and sojourn of the nation.
Video: Martin Luther King, Jr. Urges People to Vote (1964) (click link to view)
Morning will break again on November 4th as it has since the beginning of time. Astounding beauty will sing its praises throughout creation. Our Fellowship community will continue to hold each and all of us in love. Whatever the results of the election, they are raw material for us to imagine and fashion to a new world. Arundhati Roy reminds us: The trouble is that once you see it, you can't unsee it. And once you've seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There's no innocence. Either way, you're accountable.
Video: Imagine - Nicole Henry (click link to view)
“Let My Country Awake” Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action – Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake. – Rabindranath Tagore