Monday, January 19, 2009

Prophet, Priest, and Martin Luther King

A Prophet- is one who speaks for God to the people, sometimes it's inspirational or encouraging, other times it's an admonishment, meant to bring contrition and repentance. Always it brings wisdom and insight for our time.

That was Martin, a writer, a speaker, a pundit and political activist.

A Priest- is an advocate and and intercessor on behalf of the people to God. They counsel, they represent us like a defense attorney before God who requires justice. The ancient priests presented the animal sacrifice and the offerings, since Jesus fulfills any and all sacrifice or penitence, we now as a "priesthood of all believers" ( 1 Peter 2:5-9) pray for others and ask God to help others.

That was Martin, a pastor, a theologian, a community organizer, a spiritual leader

Was MLK kind of a Pirate?- Insofar as he broke with tradition and convention. Insofar as he broke unjust laws and stood against the establishment and entrenched and corrupt institutions. Moses, a prince of Egypt, demanded an end to slavery. Jesus exposed the hypocrisies of the religious and political leaders of His time. Martin Luther stood against the corruption, political power and arrogance of the church of the Renaissance. And Martin Luther King Jr. followed suite, using love, logic and nonviolence to resist the passionate anger and ignorance of American Apartheid. A rogues' gallery of pirates, for sure.

Americans tend to think of Kings as figureheads or tyrants, but the Biblical model of a godly King is someone who leads by example and executes God's plans. Someone who is willing to be God's hands and feet, ministering and protecting, shepherding and watching over- all the while walking a walk that others ought to follow. Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to emulate Dr. King's example by volunteering to serve others today, helping the poor and the oppressed. And Dr. King was only emulating Jesus' example, of feeding the hungry, offering drink to the thirsty, healing and comforting the sick, visiting the prisoners, caring for the widows the orphans and the aliens.

This Martin Luther King Day, we can all participate in his dream and make his dream live on, by reaching out to those who are different from us, by not being afraid of them or feeling threatened by them, by seeking to understand them and to share ourselves with them. Maybe it's reaching across gender lines, political party, or socio-economic lines, maybe it's sexual preference or identity, maybe it's nationality or culture, maybe it's race. We should find out how we are alike and try to (as Jesus taught) treat them as we would like to be treated.

But we can also fulfill the dream by, like Dr. King tried to, emulating Jesus' example and fulfill the destiny He gave us by dying for us, by His resurrection, and by sending us His Holy Spirit- to be His sons and daughters, so join Him in His ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) by each of us being Prophets, Priests, and Kings & Queens- and Pirates, when necessary!

Painting by Br. Robert Lentz, a religious icon painter. He comes from a Russian Orthodox background and is now a Franciscan friar who serves at All Saints Church in Houston, Texas. In addition to his painting and clerical work, he writes and teaches on art and spirituality across the country.

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