Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just Love

Come Sunday
In January of 1943 jazz artist Duke Ellington introduced a musical history of black America when he wrote “Black, Brown and Beige”.   B,B,& B, as he called it, was not simply about skin colors of the black American, it was also about a way of life.  He tried to demonstrate, through music, how far they have come through slavery times and hoping for freedom, to making a way into the mainstream of American culture and life. 

The most spiritually haunting and well known movements in Black, Brown and Beige is a song, “Come Sunday”.  Slaves, you see, looked forward to Sundays because they could rest and pray and sing and look to God for help.  ‘Come Sunday’ is really a prayer for peace and comfort, for belief in goodness even when you can’t see it, and especially a prayer of great thanksgiving for Sunday, a day to rest from the rigors and abuse of being a slave.

Here now this prayer by Duke Ellington

Oh dear Lord I´ve loved
God almighty, God up above
Please, look down and see my people through

I believe the sun and moon
Will shine up in the sky
When the day is grey
It´s just clouds passing by

He´ll give peace and comfort
To every troubled mind
Come sunday, oh come sunday
That´s the day

Often we feel weary
But he knows our every care
Go to him in secret
He will hear every prayer

The leaves in the valley
They neither toll nor spin
And flowers bloom in spring
And birds sing

Up from dawn till sunset
Man work hard all the day
Come sunday, oh come sunday
That´s the day

“Up from dawn till sunset, Man work hard all the day, Come Sunday, oh come Sunday, that´s the day.  Duke understood it all because 1943 (when this was written) was a good twenty years before the Civil Rights Movement and still there were the vestiges of slavery; prejudice, hatred, and injustice.

MLK Character
If ever a man worked from ‘dawn until sunset, hard all the day’ it was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  If ever a man loved God and his fellow human beings it was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He believed that this love was not a romantic love, or some idealized love but an active, just love.  It was a sometimes rather difficult and stubborn love rooted in the spirit and gospel of Jesus Christ and enacted through the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi’s, satyagraha – truth force or truth insistence - non-violent resistance of which Gandhi himself practiced.  It is the belief that truth is found in every human being.   Truth, love and non-violence, that’s what King was about.
In his book “Where Do We Go From Here?”, King said, "justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love."[i]

King used the book of Romans often in his sermons because of the practical and urgent message it contains about just living.  In King’s sermon, ‘Loving Your Enemies’, he said, “Love even for your enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world.”[ii]  Our scripture today is also from the letter of Paul to the Romans.  Paul does not romanticize love in any way either and believes that it is the basis of relationship with God and with one another.  Hear now the words of Paul to the Romans (selected verses)….

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath….“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…..
…..Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law…Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love your neighbor as yourself – all King asked for were equal rights for the American Negro in the 1950’s, the same rights as the white American enjoyed.  Well, those rights and freedoms came at a cost to our nation, to all of us.  We lost a prophetic leader, a visionary, a spirit filled man, and extraordinary preacher and orator, a God loving, God fearing pastor when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

Love Your Neighbor
For King…
·         To love your neighbor as yourself is to recognize that each person is made in the divine image of God and therefore is sacred. 
·         To love your neighbor as yourself is to work towards a vision of a society that is unified not because we are all the same but because we are different, have something to contribute and are valued and afforded the same rights under our United States Constitution.
·          To love your neighbor as yourself is to challenge in a non violent way the standards of a society with unjust practices and to call it to a higher level of moral understanding and living.

Love is what King sought and just love is what he worked towards.  He employed it every step of the way. 

King's non-violent resistance
Montgomery - 1955 - Rosa Parks did not just refuse to move to the back of the bus because she was being obstinate.  She refused to move because she and many others had been trained by King in the way of non-violent resistance, meeting hatred with love.  Her pre-meditated actions launched a boycott that forever remains the hallmark and beginning of the Civil Rights movement.

Birmingham - 1963 - desegregation of public places, lunch rooms, fitting rooms, drinking fountains, release of prisoners.  Those young men and women who courageously sat down at a ‘white only’ lunch counter did not do so without training.  How to resist verbal assault, how to resist being spat upon all of this was carefully thought out and rehearsed so that they could meet racism and hatred with resistance that was based in a just love. 
Washington - 1963 - The March on Washington where more than 250,000 people of all colors protested for freedom and equal rights on jobs for the black people where King delivers his "I have a Dream speech"…. At first they thought no one was showing up because the lawn of the Lincoln Memorial was empty.  No one was there because the roads where clogged with freedom buses all converging on Washington.  Bus by bus they came to give voice to unfair and unjust practices in a non violent action.

Selma - 1965 - when violence broke out and 140 blacks were hospitalized, King called upon the clergy nationwide, over 400 responded and came to Selma to march in the effort to secure voting rights.  People mobilized in non-violent, organized ways.

Constantly and consistently, to the end King followed a non-violent way of protest in the great hope and knowledge that the American Negro and all people would be benefit and be strengthened by equal rights. Non- violent resistance and vigilant efforts, a belief in a God of justice and a God of love and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

World house
In the end he was a tired man, “Come Sunday” could have easily been his prayer.  But he never wavered from his belief that all people were created equal, that we are all children of God.  He envisioned a “world house” where people can transcend tribe, race, class, religion, and I'd add sexual orientation, where poverty, militarism and racism is eradicated, a place where we are a people oriented society and not a material oriented society, a place where social injustice is met with non-violent resistance...this ideal of a world house never left him.  

Just Love
King had a dream and it is still alive because there is still injustice in our nation and in the world.  But it doesn't have to be that way if we seriously follow Christ.  LOVE your neighbor, even the ones you do not like!  Love them with a just love.  Do not fight violence with violence or hatred with more hatred.  It does nothing for your character or the character of our nation.  Revenge never works, it brings no deep and true satisfaction. Do the right and moral thing in every situation even if it knots your stomach.  You don’t have to like all people but you do need to remember that each one of us is loved by God.  And because of that we need to put love into action and to be vigilant in our efforts to create a just and reasonable situation for each human being who walks into your life and through our doors.  Just love. 

We need to pick up where King left off.  When you do this you will honor the memory and the ministry of this great man.  When you love your neighbor as yourself you will be fulfilling the command of Jesus Christ.  Let us all, together in our efforts take the prayer of Ellington, Come Sunday, upon our lips.  Not because we will ever know the tireless work and life of a slave but because we will have worked tirelessly towards equality and love, just love!


[i] “Where Do We Go From Here? Chao or Community” book, Martin Luther King Jr, 1967
[ii] “Loving Your Enemies” sermon, Martin Luther King Jr. from ‘Strength to Love’p. 49-50. 

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