Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK Day 2006

For this year's MLK Day, I'm quoting from his Mountaintop speech; I'm including some Deuteronomy, too, plus a few remarks of my own.

Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968, the eve of his assassination
...I remember in Birmingham, Alabama ... Bull Connor next would say, "Turn the fire hoses on." And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn't know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn't relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denomination, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water.

That couldn't stop us. And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at them; and we'd go on before the water hoses and we would look at it, and we'd just go on singing. "Over my head I see freedom in the air." ...

It's alright to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It's alright to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's alright to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. ...

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
God sends Moses to Mount Pisgah:

Deuteronomy 3
27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. 28 But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see."
And presents the covenant to the gathered assembly—with plentiful promises:

Deuteronomy 5
22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

30 "Go, tell them to return to their tents. 31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess."

32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
Deuteronomy 6
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
As MLK suggested, contemplating the fancy finery we'll wear after we pass into our ultimate paradisiacal dwelling is cool, as are dreams and images of milk and honey—after all, milk and honey is a sign, a visible, tangible sacrament, of the fullness of God's sovereignty and justice accomplished here on earth! (This blog includes some notes about Milk and Honey.) Talking about the sidewalks of the New Jerusalem, new city of God is trendy, too, for the people of God, because after all, God has called us and Jesus has shown us we are to help build that New Jerusalem here in San Diego, there in Chicago and Cleveland and Denver...In a very different location and time, on New Year's Day of this year I preached about the New City of God.

Parallel with the Deuteronomic historian's refrain of land, land, land—the Land of God's Promise, which will transpire on this created planet, MLK prophesies distributive justice with its accompanying redemption, "buying-back," from material want and economic paucity right here on this earthly globe; just as for Don Henley – Heaven is Under our Feet – for MLK, the Reign of Heaven will happen around us, within us and will be about us!

Deuteronomy 5,
So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
Fully to possess the land, to flourish in the land? Then help make the kind of justice prophets speak about come about: keep all the decrees, commandments laws; obey! Walk in all the way the LORD your God has commanded you. Verse 31 says, all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess. To possess the land? Then teach the people so they will know how and what to obey! Justice, righteousness, rightly distributing the harvests, providing fairly-priced, adequate? no, good housing for all, shalom-full "enough" of whatever other goods and services any urban or rural person anywhere needs. As Walter Brueggemann recently reminded us [in Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism], in beginning his Small Catechism – traditional preparation for First Communion – with the Ten Commandments and their explanations, Luther insists it is the God of the commandments with Whom we commune. Life in community and life in the world makes serious demands of us and gives us amazing rewards.

...there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out...we knew water! Yes, we know water, and anyone who has been reading my blogs or listening to my theology knows what I have to say about water!!! Water of first birth and first death, water of new birth and freedom in the air!

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 tells us,
I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
In the desert, as they were becoming acclimated to minimal living, water from the rock (surprise!) refreshed and revived the emergent people of God; Yahweh gave the Sinai Covenant while the people journeyed out from slavery and into free, responsive (and responsible) living; the Word Yahweh spoke from the mountain out of the fire was a mature covenant, full of demand but replete with assurance from the God Who covenants with creation.

Annually, the Jewish Day of Pentecost recalls the Sinai law recounted in Deuteronomy; the Christian Day of Pentecost on the same day of the Jewish Pentecost - related in Acts - reveals a new way of being the obedient people of God. Acts 2 details the Gift of the Spirit given in fire and in wind to individuals as they were gathered in inclusive community! ...freedom in the air...in the Pentecost Covenant, the Holy Spirit of God and of the Christ inspires, in-breathes and enables obedience in a far freer, more spontaneous sense than before, with the law of the Spirit of Life poured out into our hearts, capturing our wills. The Pentecost Event forms the culmination of the reconciling, redeeming Christ Event, God's ultimate New Covenant of Grace of service to the world and one another: "do this"—I am among you as one who serves.

Jesus lived as all of the law and all of the prophets wrapped up in one person, making the law simpler to grasp but far more difficult to perform. Because of Christ Jesus' life among us, now we're subject to the finely-tuned obedience and morality of living in Christ. However, as Romans 8: 2 maintains, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free—from the law of sin and death, the death which became inevitable because of the human impossibility of total obedience. ...freedom in the air...as Jesus told his followers, it was necessary for him to return to the Father, that the Spirit might be given. And so, this is Pentecost!!!!! Because we live in Pentecostal fire and – drowned and revived – we now live in resurrection, in a newly-minted reality.

J├╝rgen Moltmann distinguishes between the human planner's future that can be strategized and that often develops predictably from us, out of our present (and, of course, out this present's past) and the future that comes toward us from God, breaking into our frequently trivial plans and expectations, making claims upon us and demands of us. Most appropriately, as we respond in obedience to God's Spirit-led commands, we never quite can tease out the parts of God's future that we have made from those aspects initiated and ratified by God's hidden activity. This latter-days future is one for which the Church and the churches only can hope, because its ultimate content has so many resurrection facets that only can be God-imagined and therefore, given only by God.
When the Time Has Come | Huey Lewis & the News

everything's gonna clear up and the sun will shine;
everybody's gonna cheer up, 'cause it's redemption time!

don't you worry 'bout a thing, cause you know things are gonna change
when the time has come

walls are gonna crumble and fall into the sea;
oh, all men will be humble—that's a guarantee!

a little rain is gonna fall, but it will only wash away the tears of us all

don't you worry bout a thing 'cause that train is gonna run
you will be on it from here to kingdom come
when the time has come

listen to the—band feels like a change

wind is gonna rise up and blow us all away;
people gonna wise up, cause it's judgment day

so don't you worry about a thing, cause you know that train is gonna run;
you will be on it not just for some
we'll all be on it from here to kingdom come
when the time has come

when the time has come, when the time has come
oh when the time has come

everything's gonna clear up everybody cheer up;
walls are gonna crumble; all men will be humble;
feeling it getting stronger—won't be down much longer;
we will be free when the time has come

when the time has come—I believe the time has come
feels like a change when the time....
1995 (Hayes and Lewis) Kinda Blue Music/Huey Lewis Music

Album, Time Flies... The Best of Huey Lewis & the News, 1996

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