The recent celebration of the Martin Luther King speech and the success of the march on Washington prompted a look in the rear view mirror.  One timed memory that comes to the surface relates to student days at a southern seminary.  The civil rights movement and racial relations were hot topics.  Professors encouraged students to apply the gospel of equality, justice, and inclusion in the churches they served.  They rightly said that preachers must take a prophetic stance and preach the gospel on the race issues.  Some students did so as they scattered to their weekend church pastorates.  They were heard thoughtfully enough with limited negative response in some cases.   Others met hostility.  A few churches dismissed their pastors for preaching about the matter.   Charred crosses on parsonage lawns, burned in the night before, greeted a few student pastors on their arrival to their weekend ministries.  Some students lost much: friends, support positions they needed to meet seminary and family expenses, hope that their churches would change, and difficulty moving to another ministry because of their known stand for civil rights.

These students did not make the strides that MLK and others made in the progress of civil rights, but they identified and tried and some suffered.  They did help to crack the ice a little bit, fissures here and there, that helped to begin melting the frozen landscape of injustice.  We are grateful for all those who suffered and made the breakthroughs, names and sacrifices we do not know as well as those we do.  But of course now, as Rev. Jesse Jackson said, after looking in the rear view mirror we must look through the windshield and do the work we are still called to do.

Renewal, Beginning Again

Renewal, or a new beginning, is important to us all.  The gospels, viewed at once in their beginnings, affirm a kind of beginning that is in the process of realization.  Matthew has a genealogy in the first chapter, and the sense of the genealogy is really “genesis,” or origins.  In the second chapter he has Jesus’ birth and infancy account, also beginnings.  Mark emphasizes “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1; all quotes from NRSV).  Luke, after his introduction, begins with, “In the days of King Herod,” as if to say, “once upon a time,” and then he launches into a striking account of Jesus’ birth.  John’s gospel actually begins with the words, “In the beginning” (1:1), and then the dramatic statement, “And the word became flesh and lived among us” (1:14), which is John’s expression of Jesus’ birth and beginnings with us. 

These are not simple literary devices for the gospel writers, for they alert us to a dramatic announcement that creation began again.  Jesus was the unique, in-breaking of God’s rule in history.  The gospel writers stressed beginnings since with Jesus something new happened that began a different history for humankind.  The end of the old order had come, or its end had begun, and the new was upon them.  Its beginning was as significant and markedly unique as the creation itself.  Jesus came to create all of creation anew, including us.  He is the New Covenant (Testament).  In him is the new life and the true life, the new creation and God’s rule breaking in upon us in Jesus Christ.  His new is all inclusive (Matt. 28:18: ‘“And Jesus said to them, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me’”).  If we are of Jesus, his disciples, we are always living in the new and renewal always is offered.

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