World

Encounters: “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool” Part III

Lessons from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

May 18, 2021 by

Spring pollen may be watering eyes in the Northern Hemisphere, but it is the height of autumn in the New England tablelands of New South Wales. True, the native eucalyptus give no hint of the season, but the region gets its name because there actually are (more or less) four distinct seasons – that is, more or less when compared to the “real” New England of my childhood.

There is color here, too, thanks to those who took advantage of the seasonal changes and planted countless deciduous trees around our area. I am grateful to them as I savor that uniquely bittersweet feeling of passing beauty, that essence of autumn, to the last fallen leaf.

Sunsets are like that too. And so are the autumn rains that come and go across the paddocks. The other evening a quick shower rolled through, briefly blessing a rosebud before receding westward and gilding gold the last sheets of falling rain.

3Embed2Photo by the author

The stars that night were rinsed and burnished, showing their own autumn colors: in contrast to its appearance in New York, here Arcturus could be mistaken for Mars except for its twinkle. Within an hour of its rising, it is joined in the southeast by Antares, well named “the rival of Mars,” a red supergiant with a diameter some seven hundred times that of the sun.

By mid-winter the full length of the Milky Way in all its splendor will stretch across the heavens from Cygnus in the north to the Southern Cross. As a child I was mesmerized by the northern portion of this flood of stars; that was all I could see. Now I wish I could share the southern end of it with my star-gazing mates up north! And as if to remind me of them (poor fellows), I can just make out most of the Big Dipper’s handle as it peaks over my northern horizon.

3Embed1Photo by Steven Su on Unsplash

Nature in every part is singing the praises of the Creator, reminding me of the eloquent lines hidden within Rev. Martin Luther King’s sermon, “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.” They spring out at you, unexpected: “But I tell you this morning, my friends, there’s no way to get rid of Him. And all of our new knowledge will not diminish God’s being one iota. Neither the microcosmic compass of the atom nor the vast interstellar ranges of interstellar space can make God irrelevant . . . .”

King is concerned because “a lot of people are forgetting God.”

. . . So many people become so involved in looking at the man-made lights of the city that they forget to think about that great cosmic light that gets up early in the morning in the eastern horizon and moves with a kind of symphony of motion like a masterly queen strolling across a mansion and paints its technicolor across the blue as it moves – a light that man could never make.
Some people have become so involved in looking at the skyscraping buildings of the cities that they’ve forgotten to think about the gigantic mountains, kissing the skies, as if to bathe their peaks in the lofty blue – something that man could never make.
So many people have become so involved in televisions and radar that they’ve forgotten to think about the beautiful stars that bedeck the heavens like swinging lanterns of eternity, standing there like shining silvery pins sticking in the magnificent blue pincushion – something that man could never make.
So many people have come to feel that on their own efforts they can bring in a new world, but they’ve forgotten to think about the fact that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. . . .
Modern man still has to cry out with the Psalmist, ‘When I behold the heavens, the work of thy hands and all that thou hast created; what is man, that thou is mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou hast remembered him?’

Gratitude permeates all things autumnal – for the rich harvest of field and heart, for (in the words of the Australian cartoonist-poet Michael Leunig) “that which has grown in adversity. / And for that which has flourished in warmth and grace; / for the radiance of the spirit in autumn and for that which must now fade and die.”

King did not know on that August morning in 1967 that he would only see one more autumn. Or maybe he did. I don’t know, but I thank him for reminding us all that we must not forget the Source of all blessings, autumnal or otherwise, and I feel him with me while I linger to watch the colors gently change and deepen across a silent Australian landscape.

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About the author

photograph of Bill and Grace Wiser

Bill Wiser

Bill Wiser lives at Danthonia, a Bruderhof in New South Wales. His daily activities include teaching and pastoral work...

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