Ideas and experiences from our church members
Thoughts on Easter
Thoughts on Easter
These days before Easter have been thought-provoking and inspiring in a very different way. I had the opportunity to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, on the site where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
The exhibit was fascinating, taking in every era of the Black rights struggle. Near the end of a very long trek through, the exhibit gave information and films of Dr. King. Watching the “I Have a Dream” speech brought tears to my eyes. His “suggestions” for riding newly integrated buses in Montgomery, Alabama provide practical steps that ring, to me, directly from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
For your help and convenience the following suggestions are made. Will you read, study and memorize them so that our non-violent determination may not be endangered. First, some general suggestions:
1. Not all white people are opposed to integrated buses. Accept goodwill on the part of many.
2. The whole bus is now for the use of all people. Take a vacant seat.
3. Pray for guidance and commit yourself to complete non-violence in word and action as you enter the bus.
4. Demonstrate the calm dignity of our Montgomery people in your actions.
5. In all things observe ordinary rules of courtesy and good behavior.
6. Remember that this is not a victory for Negroes alone, but for all Montgomery and the South. Do not boast! Do not brag!
7. Be quiet but friendly; proud, but not arrogant; joyous, but not boistrous.
8. Be loving enough to absorb evil and understanding enough to turn an enemy into a friend.
NOW FOR SOME SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS:
1. The bus driver is in charge of the bus and has been instructed to obey the law. Assume that he will cooperate in helping you occupy any vacant seat.
2. Do not deliberately sit by a white person, unless there is no other seat.
3. In sitting down by a person, white or colored, say "May I" or "Pardon me" as you sit. This is a common courtesy.
4. If cursed, do not curse back. If pushed, do not push back. If struck, do not strike back, but evidence love and goodwill at all times.
5. In case of an incident, talk as little as possible, and always in a quiet tone. Do not get up from your seat! Report all serious incidents to the bus driver.
6. For the first few days try to get on the bus with a friend in whose non-violence you have confidence. You can uphold one another by a glance or a prayer.
7. If another person is being molested, do not arise to go to his defense, but pray for the oppressor and use moral and spiritual force to carry on the struggle for justice.
8. According to your own ability and personality, do not be afraid to experiment with new and creative techniques for achieving reconciliation and social change.
9. If you feel you cannot take it, walk for another week or two. We have confidence in our people. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.
Another thing that stuck with me, very deeply in this Easter season, is a snippet from his last speech, called “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” as he was there to support the Memphis sanitation workers. It refers to the parable of the Good Samaritan”.
… it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.
This is such love for the lowliest of man! Such unselfish vision. Such determination to act as Jesus instructed and inspired.
In my annual Easter-time reading of the chapter “Atonement and Eucharist” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, I came across this statement, familiar to me but not previously understood:
The spiritual essence of blood is sacrifice. The efficacy of Jesus' spiritual offering is infinitely greater than can be expressed by our sense of human blood. The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon “the accursed tree,” than when it was flowing in his veins as he went daily about his Father's business. His true flesh and blood were his Life; and they truly eat his flesh and drink his blood, who partake of that divine Life. (page 25:3)
Now, I have an idea of what is meant. Those who give their life in obedience to God, divine Love, are living true life. It is the life lived with un-selfed love that sustains and uplifts.
Jesus was crucified for doing what was indisputably right and good. And he rose from the dead, and soon after that rose entirely from earth. To the material senses, which see blood flowing through a body as the definition of our life, this makes no sense. But Life is so much more! It is not about blood, or even blood sacrificed. It is Love lived.
To the material senses, Dr. King died. We know, however, that his message has not. And we do not know what his experience actually was that day in Memphis, or what it has been since. We can trust, though, that God, divine Life and Love, never let him go and he lives and loves still.
What can this mean for me? To hold myself close to avoid insult and hurt is not the way to life. To put myself forward in the best way I know, to live to lift others, is.
I don’t know what this looks like yet. Father-Mother God, may I do as you will.
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