Arrested for Justice

Jesus was arrested for His activism, and so was Dr. King

This weekend as we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We often recall his soaring speeches, taking us to new heights as we shared his dream.

However, we should also celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. the social activist, who was arrested some 30 times.

From his first arrest in 1955 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, to his last arrest in1965, for demonstrating without a permit in Selma. Dr. King model the social activism of Jesus – who advocated for the poor, looked after the widow, orphan and foreigner, in addition to standing up for all who found themselves on the margins of life.

Jesus was arrested for His activism, and so was Dr. King.

In April of 1963, Dr. King was arrested in Birmingham for violating an Alabama judge’s ruling against holding protests and demonstrations.

On the day of his arrest, a group of concerned white Birmingham clergy issued a letter asking three things from Dr. King and his followers:

1.Dr. King and followers should go home. They were not from Birmingham, and therefore have no right to interfere with their affairs.

2. The clergy thought the demands of King and his followers were too grand. Therefore, the white clergy asked the black citizens of Birmingham for more time for negotiations with the local white power structure.

3.The clergy were dismayed that Dr. King and his fowlers were willing violate the law, by holding demonstrations against a judge’s order.

While in jail, Dr. King wrote back to the concerned white Birmingham clergy. His response simply known as “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, is a remarkable primer on the principals of social activism, and a treatise on why there is no shame in being arrested for justice.

Using the language of the early Christian Theologian, St. Augustine and Scripture, Dr. King’s responses can inspire us to greater activism.

Clergy: Dr. King and followers should go home. They were not from Birmingham, and therefore have no right to interfere with their affairs.

King: I am in Birmingham because injustice is here …I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider …

Clergy: The clergy thought the demands of King and his followers were too grand. Therefore, the white clergy asked the black citizens of Birmingham for more time for negotiations with the local white power structure.

King: We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. 

Clergy: King was easily willing to violate the law by holding demonstrations against a judge’s orders.

King: One may well ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that, “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality …

This weekend of celebration and commemorations reminds us that King like Jesus, was and is a radical revolutionary, demanding systematic change.

If we are to be true disciples of Jesus, we also must be radical revolutionaries, willing not only to say provocative yet prophetic things, but to put our bodies on the line, in volunteerism, in activism and sometimes in civil dissent. This means we must be willing to be arrested for justice.

Jesus was arrested for justice, and so was King. Hopefully, you and I will be willing be arrested for justice as well.

Source material for this blog is from: Letter from Birmingham Jail
Copyright © 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. All rights reserved. Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community. Leah Gunning Francis, Chalice Press, 2015.

 

How to Make the Most of Our 2017 Opportunities

As we start the second first full week of 2017 the question before us is this: how can we make the most of the opportunities that 2017 will present?

Nearly ten years ago, a Harvard student invited five people over to his dorm room to discuss a business opportunity. But, only two of the invitees showed up.

That Harvard student was Mark Zuckerberg, and the business opportunity was Facebook.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of the New York Times best seller, “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” sums up the opportunity of the Zuckerberg’s billion-dollar meeting by saying:

“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.” 

As we start the second first full week of 2017 the question before us is this: how can we make the most of the opportunities that 2017 will present?

Like Zuckerberg’s classmates, none of us can fully understand the impact of the opportunities ahead in 2017. However, we can understand that opportunities are about making choices, and making the right choice requires wisdom. True wisdom only comes from God.

Scripture states it clearly, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5, ESV).

This passage begs the question, “For which opportunities should we be asking God’s wisdom?” The answer is simple, we should pray about everything.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us three things to do, which can be applied to our lives and opportunities in 2017.

First, we are to rejoice always – in good times and bad.

Second, we should pray without ceasing, and

Lastly, we ought to give thanks to God in all circumstances.

Wisdom is defined as the appropriate use of experience, intelligence, common sense and the opinions of others, to make the right decision for a given problem, issue or opportunity.

Having the wisdom to make the right choice, instead of making the best decision will be the leading factor for our 2017 success.

Proverbs 3:13-18 reminds us that God blesses the person who finds wisdom. Eugene Peterson in the Message Translation of the Bible, calls wisdom the very tree of life.

“You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight.  
She’s worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary.
Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. 
With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition. 
Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete.
She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.
Hold her tight—and be blessed!”
        
God’s will for us is that we seek the wisdom of the Lord; this will allow us to make the most of our 2017 opportunities.

Oh by the way, the two people who had the wisdom to meet with Mark Zuckerberg are now billionaires.

Happy New Year!

Marben Bland is the Pastor of Hill Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Churches in Sparta, GA. He is also an entrepreneur in addition to being a writer and speaker.

Starting From Scratch

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

A new year brings into focus the endless opportunities we have for growth, development and change. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Regardless of the activities we undertake in 2017, we do not have to start from scratch when we include God.

Therefore, in 2017:

Go ahead and do the mundane; but, necessary tasks of our lives.
Go ahead and gather the courage; and all the things necessary to follow your dreams.
Go ahead and have a life of love, laughter, and significance.

However, whatever you do, don’t start from scratch. Take God with you!

Marben Bland is the Pastor of the Mitchel and Hall A.M.E. Churches in Sparta, GA

A New Year’s Message For You

Rejoice always (in good times and bad), pray without ceasing, and give thanks to God in all circumstances.

We are about to embark on a new year with 925,600 minutes of time at our disposal.  Ephesians 5:15-17 tells us to look carefully how we walk, not as the unwise but as the wise, making the best use of our time.

Time is perhaps our must precious gift.  The way we use time, and the people we choose to spend our time with is important.

Conceivably, for someone we know or for even ourselves, the 925,600 minutes of time allocated for this year will not be used, for this life on earth will end.   

Therefore, let us take the wise council of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  which tells us to do these three things with our time: Rejoice always (in good times and bad), pray without ceasing, and  give thanks to God in all circumstances.

Happy New Year!

Do You Really Know The Real Reason for The Season?

Everything about Jesus from His conception to His virgin birth to His life, to His teachings and His death on the cross. Has been about your life, your happiness and your salvation.

As we close out this celebration of our dear savior’s birth; many of us have proclaim boldly during Avant and perhaps even today that “Jesus is the reason for the season!”

However, on this Christmas night let me suggest something different.  You are the reason for the season.

Just consider, everything about Jesus from His conception to His virgin birth to His life, to His teachings and His death on the cross.  Has been about your life, your happiness and your salvation.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but will have eternal life.   John 3:16

Therefore, tonight as you go off to sleep please consider this: While Jesus is the cause for the season the real reason God created the season is for you.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

God created the season for you.

Yes, you are the real reason for the season.

What a powerful gift of Love from God. 

– Merry Christmas

Christmastime: Is It Really a Racket?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A Racket: An illegal or dishonest scheme for obtaining money, power, position or fame.

In the classic holiday television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the venerable Peanuts Character, Charlie Brown is struggling to find the true meaning of Christmas.

In his struggles, Charlie Brown consults the noted “expert” Lucy Van Pelt who provides this “sage” advice about the meaning of Christmas:

“Look Charlie, let’s face it.  We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.  It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.”

For many, the Christmas Season – with its financial pressures, over commercialization, and personal depression – really does seem like a racket.

Christmastime can seem like a racket, even for those of us who are professed followers of Jesus.

Look at the activities in our churches – we load the season with an entire year of “good works,” from concerts, to nursing home visits, to dinners and food drives.

With all these activities, we Christians often turn Christmastime into a racket, as the most wonderful time of the year becomes the most hectic time of the year, all in our zeal to “honor Jesus.”

However, before I get accused of being a Grinch, I just ask you to consider this: Christmastime really is a racket.

Why?

Because

  • All the problems influenced by Christmastime
  • All the pressures influenced by Christmastime
  • All the pleasures influenced by Christmastime

Christmastime is a racket because it reminds us why we need Jesus.   

God sent Jesus to live among us and to show us:

How to overcome the racket of commercialization that can overwhelm our lives.

God sent Jesus to live among us and to show us:

How to value the immigrate, the refugee, the enslaved, the poor, the orphan and all who are living in rackets at the margins of life.

God sent Jesus to live among us and to show us:

How to engage God in prayer, as we seek refuge from our problems, and intersession for our family, friends and neighbors who are caught in rackets of their own lives.    

Above all, God sent Jesus – born in a stable, so He could die on a cross to give us salvation from the racket of sin.

The prophet Isaiah, provides the real “sage” advice about the meaning of Christmas.   

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Yep, Lucy was right; Christmastime is a racket.

  • Christmastime with all its glory
  • Christmastime with all its grandeur
  • Christmastime with all its grief

Christmastime is a racket, but it reminds us why we need Jesus.

Merry Christmas and remember that Jesus is reason for the season!

Godspeed, John Glenn

John Glenn lived a life of duty, honor and responsibility.

Growing up in a small town in the “Georgia Outback” I had a lot of time on my hands to read and study up on things.

In the discovery of reading, I developed heroes in the things that captured

my interest and imagination.  In baseball my hero was Hank Aaron, in football my hero was Jim Brown, in politics my hero was Barbara Jordan, in religion my hero was Billy Graham and in space flight my hero was John Glenn.

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.  While I was only four at the time, the launch of his rocket is one of my most vivid memories.  I recall watching it as I sat on my father’s lap.

Later, my reading revealed just how high the stakes were when John Glenn lifted off at 9:47 AM.

  • The launch took place in a tense time when the United States sought supremacy over the Soviet Union in the space race.
  • The launch took place after 11 delays because of bad weather, or faulty equipment.
  • The launch took place even though Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule set on top of a rocket that had failed in 40 percent of its test flights.

Scott Carpenter, fellow astronaut and capsule communicator for the flight, echoed the hopes of the nation when he said at liftoff, “Godspeed John Glenn.”

However, I suspect that this was not the first-time God’s speed had been with John Glenn.  He flew 149 combat missions in two wars and was a test pilot in the 1950s, when faster-than-sound airplanes often veered out of control and crashed in smoking heaps.

This was not the last-time that God’s speed would be with John Glenn.  For at age 77 – 36 years’ after the Friendship 7 Flight – John Glenn became the oldest person ever to go into space.  As he was part of a 9-day Discovery Space Shuttle Mission to the International Space Station in 1998.

Between the space flights, John Glenn built a successful career in business, served four terms as a United States Senator from Ohio, and raised two children as part of a strong and enduring 73-year marriage to his wife Annie.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. died on Thursday, December 8, 2016 at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio.   At 95, he was the last of the Mercury Seven Astronauts.  They were a collection of military pilots, turned modern day explorers, who Author Tom Wolf dubbed as having the “right stuff.”

A member of the United States Marine John Glenn rose to the rank of Colonel.  The prayer of the Marine corps says in part:

“Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm. Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance… and if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.”

John Glenn lived a life of duty, honor and responsibility.  However, as all of us do, he sometimes missed the mark.  He was defeated in his run for the Senate in 1964 and 1970, and had a failed bid for the Presidency in 1984.  Nevertheless, Paul’s testimony in 2nd Timothy 4:7 can be applied to John Glenn’s life because he “fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith.”

Godspeed, John Glenn!

Source material for this post came from: The Washington Post