World

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

Lessons from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

August 4, 2021 by

Mid-January seems so long ago now. But that’s when this series began, with the following questions:

  • What was 2021 going to look like?
  • Where does a physically, mentally, and spiritually drained world turn in times like this?
  • How do we as individuals and nations connect with the center and reach for those hidden resources deep within the individual and national soul?

More than half a year on, we know something about 2021, and it does not feel much different from the year prior. Just north of where I live in Australia, Indonesia is now the world’s epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic and even in those countries where the vaccinated are facing a lower rate of hospitalization and death, uncertainty abounds. So do anxiety, depression, and death by overdose.

BillWiserEmbedPhoto by Carl Jorgensen on Unsplash.

No, the second and third questions have not lost their currency; in fact, they seem more relevant today than they did six months ago. In answer, this fourth and final post in the series turns to the most current and applicable paragraph of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon, “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.” I’ve saved the best for last.

God is still around. One day, you’re going to need him. The problems of life will begin to overwhelm you; disappointments will begin to beat upon the door of your life like a tidal wave. And if you don’t have a deep and patient faith, you aren’t going to be able to make it. I know this from my own experience.

To appreciate the full impact of these few lines, you must absorb what follows in the sermon itself, in King’s own words. You need to discover for yourself what his “own experience” entailed. Better yet, take a few minutes to hear him speak about the defining moment of his life, his (quite literally) dark night of the soul.

It is King’s vulnerability that makes me sit up and listen to this part of the sermon. And the searing revelation that, notwithstanding the strength of his parents’ faith, the robust nature of his faith tradition, and the immense stature of his own intellectual prowess, when the lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and the sin breakers dashed against his soul, nothing but the voice of Jesus “saying still to fight on,” and the promise of Jesus to be always alongside, counted for anything.

Blest, indeed, is the soul that has heard this voice, as King did that wretched night, promising “never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” This side of heaven there is no safer haven, no surer refuge, and no greater source of peace in the midst of fear, anxiety, and strife.

Context is everything, and this sermon has plenty of it. King’s assassination is no more than eight months away and, as is so well documented in Tavis Smiley’s Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year, so much is crumbling and falling around him. And yet he still fights on.

We are called to the same, to still fight on. And to rejoice in every tender shoot of hope emerging amidst the uncertainly and chaos. God is still around. Jesus is alongside. And we shall overcome!

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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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