Almighty God…Grant that your people, illumined by your word and sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s love… your people, illumined, enlightened, awoken, disturbed, shaken from their apathy and complicity, by your word and sacraments! On the eve of the national remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I could not help but see the correlation between this collect and his life, and lives like his, who have served the church and the world, as a sacrament that has shined the light of Christ’s glory in the world.
His dream of beloved community has haunted us members of the dominant culture since the day he preached it from the steps of our nation’s capital, but it is a dream that remains none the same.
In her Book, “Waking Up White,” Debby Irving tells her own story of being
awoken, disturbed, enlightened to the reality what it meant to be White, in our culture and country. As the epiphany of the privilege and advantage she inherited simply by being white grew, she was awoken to the unfair disadvantage and inequity inherited by those who are NOT WHITE.
In this morning’s Gospel, John called out to his disciples when Jesus was approaching them on the road…Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” What an odd and difficult statement…but as we know the rest of the story we understand what he meant. The life of Jesus would be an offering of love, healing, and truth-telling to the dominant powers and disturbing the status quo, — and that would eventually get him killed, just as so many other lives through history that served as a sacrament of God that shined the radiance of Christ in their time and in their world.
The season of Epiphany is about growth and waking up. Its about our eyes being open to the sin that is a cultural system of advantage and disadvantage, of favor and disfavor, of privilege and discrimination — and deciding as Martin Luther King Jr. did as a voice of the disadvantaged to rise up from the darkness that prejudice and hatred had cast his people in, or like Jesus, who decided as a privileged member of his own culture, to be an advocate for those who were marginalized and disadvantaged by the culture and religion that granted him favor as a male, as a descendant of Abraham, as a rabbi, and join in the work of taking away the sin of the world.
Jesus taught us, “Whenever you give to those who are considered less than you, you give to me. Whenever you as an advantaged male advocate on behalf of disadvantaged female, whenever you as a dominant strait person advocate on behalf of the maligned LGBTQ community, whenever you as a Christian advocate on behalf of your Muslim neighbor, whenever you as a white person, recognize your inherited privilege and advocate on behalf of those who have inherited disadvantage simply by being born other than white, then you become a sacrament of God that shines with the radiance of Christ’s glory.
In his speech, I have a dream, Dr. King, dreamt of a world when children of any and all ethnicity, children of any and all faith, when children were free to be and play together without the perceived separation of otherness, but with the instinctual awareness of being one beloved community. This work of racial reconciliation has been adopted by our own tradition under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, as a priority, a work of love and sacrifice.
A sacrament is the outward manifestation of inward and invisible divine grace. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and message remain with us today to stir us, awaken us, illumine us and confront us to shine the light of beloved community, the light of Christ’s love, the light of reconciliation in our own time of inequality and prejudice. It is not enough that the world is right for me and my kind. It is only enough when it is right for all.