Today we commemorate the life and legacy of one of the greatest prophets of our time—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In gratitude for all he sacrificed, we call out his name and we say, Ashé!
During his last speech, Dr. King shared with the hundreds gathered in that historic church on a stormy April night in Memphis the urgent need to be in solidarity with the striking sanitation workers. As he taught, Dr. King reminded the crowd how faithful and determined people just like them had succeeded in disempowering Bull Connor, Birmingham’s virulently racist Commissioner of Public Safety. As he encouraged his listeners, the preacher and Civil Rights leader moved into a spirit of worship—ending his powerful speech with the well-known declaration, “I’ve been to the mountaintop . . . Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
How surprising that in today’s text, in his role as governor, Nehemiah is seen as righteous and just. How ironic that while engaging in this work, he witnesses some injustices and reminds the religious leaders of their responsibility to care for and ensure justice for the poor and the vulnerable among them, using his position to help bring restoration to Jerusalem. The call to let go of fear and to worship is made not only by the religious leaders but also by the governor.
Imagine how different it would have been in Dr. King’s time if those in powerful positions had been aligned with God’s law. Imagine how different it would have been if religious and political leaders had been concerned for the poor and working class.
Imagine if that were the case for us today. Imagine how much closer we would all be to seeing the Promised Land.
God, we thank you for the leaders and prophets you send to teach us and compel us to live and love in a more excellent way, trusting that we never do this work alone. Amen.
How do we feel when we read the word of God? The Israelites rejoice in God’s law. At the time of the restoration of Jerusalem after the return from exile, Ezra reads from the Law and explains its meaning to the people. They respond by holding a feast because understanding God’s teachings is a source of joy. The psalmist says that God’s law revives the soul, causes the heart to rejoice, and helps us to see clearly. Paul continues with his teaching on spiritual gifts, emphasizing that all members of the body of Christ have an important role. No one can claim to be any more important than anyone else. In Luke, Jesus reads from Isaiah and declares that his messianic ministry will focus on justice, mercy, and healing.
Read Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10. When has God’s word overwhelmed you? How did you react?
Read Psalm 19. How do you seek to speak or sing words acceptable to God? How does this shape your life?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. Within the body of Christ, as within our human bodies, parts compensate for one another. How do you take on more to support the body of Christ when others struggle? How do you allow others to take on your roles when you struggle?
Read Luke 4:14-21. In what ways have you rejected Jesus?
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