Updated: Feb 1, 2019
In his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged congregations about practicing a safe and sanitized kind of religion – of only talking about the way things should be, rather than the way that things actually are. He wrote: “The question is not if we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or love?”
No one would argue that are living in anxious times. I realize that as I preach people are trying to label my message as red or blue, Fox or CNN. Sermons sound political because God’s word is out to change us. It’s meant to be practiced in our daily living. It is not a “once upon a time” kind of story - instead it is a listen and be changed kind of story.
These days congregations rooted in God’s word are discerning daily living practices in regard to environmental care, hunger, poverty, refugee crisis, sexuality, addictions and peace in our world. Guided by scripture that tells us to be light for world congregations enter complicated conversations and address pressing social issues with a radical love.
It would be easier to hang out in our church basements and share potlucks except for our calling to be holy troublemakers. Dr. King’s words from 1963 still ring true. Who has time to be extremists for love in a world, in a national culture, that appears so broken?
The answer is: we do.
Noticing, reclaiming, remembering the gift of God’s of steadfast love for all people (not just those enjoying potlucks downstairs) might just be one of the most critical spiritual practices of our day. Dr. King’s dream that the church would be the beloved community, practicing extreme love, standing with the oppressed, confronting the systems that produce oppression is infused with hope, and gentleness and strength and joy. Who doesn’t want more of this in our lives?
Pastor Mike Woods