Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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January 2015 Archive for Evangelical Mission Blog

RSS By: Pastor Lamont Anthony Wells

Pastor Lamont Anthony Wells shares his thoughts about evangelical mission.

Still, hope for tomorrow

Jan 18, 2015

mlkwellsFor months, I have been in deep reflection on how to make proclamation concerning the tense and uncomfortable climate of socio-political challenges and moral protests in our front yard, New York City. As a pastoral leader, recent events have troubled my spirit and kept me awake at night. We are all faced with these current realities in our synod. Many in our own congregations and communities are experiencing the present-day mood as a nightmare when we hoped to be in a season of pleasant dreams. So my personal challenge has been to get relief from the nightmares and to dream again.

In his well-known "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. begins: "I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream." Still? In spite of the harsh realities of his day, Dr. King still was able to dream. That’s a powerful resilience that comes from God. The power of King’s dream existed in how strongly he believed in it and he dedicated his life to help make it happen. In his speech, King outlined his vision of the future as good news that shall be manifested in a soon-coming reality. This encouraged many to still have hope for tomorrow. This a good model to help us minister and engage the world around us.

What does the life of Dr. King teach us today in our struggle of spreading the gospel amidst social injustices, political turmoil, and religious intolerance? He was born in 1929 as Michael King, but in 1935 his father changed both of their names to Martin Luther to honor the German Protestant reformer. In the very spirit of Martin Luther, Dr. King preached that "the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society." In the spirit of reform, he became a radical revisionist who argued that the basic institutions of American life must be made over in equality and fairness to even the poorest citizens. That is the very essence and embodiment of our call to follow Christ’s purpose in Luke 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free."

King’s approach was non-violent resistance, heavily inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s movement leading to the decolonization of India and Pakistan. He believed "Jesus Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, and Gandhi furnished the method." If we listen closely, this becomes a relevant strategy even today. The world has increased its strategies for war, and we must lift up our strategy of peace. The temperament of society revolves around physical conflict, violent aggression, emotional bullying, and verbal brutality. Our counter-cultural motivation ought to actively resist these social pressures by bringing the public to the light of ‘love in action.’ How will the world know we are the Christian church? By our love. When in Montgomery, Alabama as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, King spoke a great wisdom: "We must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all of our actions...Love is one of the pinnacle parts of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice, and justice is really love in calculation."

We must sincerely dream for a better New York, and in Christ, hope for the fulfillment of peace as a promise of God. The Lord is at work in us, and it’s a matter of believing in that work and following it with our actions. As proclaimers of the gospel, we can learn a lot from Dr. King in our journey together as a synod, and find strength in God’s promise to fulfill God’s work through our loving hands.

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