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hope.

"MLK" by Derek Russell, 2013

hope.  it's what i've built my ministry on.

well, not exactly.  hope that isn't based on anything is just wishful thinking, or worse.  so i've built my ministry on hope in the love of Jesus Christ, who died for love and rose again.  i've built my ministry on this idea that love wins.  that love wins over hate, over fear, over pain, over addiction, over war, over oppression, over everything, even death.  i've built my ministry on that love.  of course, it is centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus.  which means it takes belief, or faith.  it is often mixed pretty heavily with doubt, but at my core, i believe.

so, to recap: my whole life is really about trying to live and proclaim a wild-eyed and radical hope, which is based on the unthinkable, unquenchable, inseparable love of Jesus, which i experience through a (sometimes diluted) faith that i cling to, with clenched fists and strained muscles.

or, to recap even further: i believe in an unstoppable love, through Jesus, and that gives me hope.

i don't expect you to really care about this, but i feel compelled to share it anyway, in light of recent events.  the hideous face of racism - still a monstrous beast on the prowl in our country - showed itself in a south carolina church.  african american churches are burning to the ground in the south, even as i type.  recent events in missouri and maryland - and many other places - have pitted police against persons of color, whether fairly or not.  within the last week, we have entered into a social-media screamfest about the confederate flag and the meaning of symbols.  and all of this doesn't even touch on the recent maelstrom of media mania regarding the supreme court's 5-4 decision concerning same-gender marriage.  in so many ways, our more-connected-than-ever world continues to fragment and fracture into factions marked by facebook profile pics.

it is in such a world that i still believe in an unstoppable love, through Jesus, and that gives me hope.

a friend of mine (who was my latin teacher in high school!), posted on facebook a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.'s nobel peace prize acceptance speech from 1964.  he then directed me to the whole speech, which i had read before, but had forgotten.  i have included it below in its entirety, both in video and print formats.  you may have heard or read it before.  but i encourage you do so again, for we need to hear it.  we need to see this man clinging to his faith with clenched fists and strained muscles.  his was a world of firehoses aimed at people and snarling dogs.  his was a world marked by racism and sexism and many other isms.  his was a world of fear and hate.  sounds familiar, doesn't it?  and in the midst of such a world MLK asserted what he believed.  "I believe," he said, "that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality."

please read his speech.  and ask yourself, what do you believe?  do you merely believe that a flag should come down or stay up?  do you merely believe in marriage as you define it?  or do you believe in something deeper, something truer?  do you believe in love?  do you believe, with MLK and me, that one day the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and there will be no more tear gas, no more tears? what do you believe?  do you believe that love will win?

"love never fails....for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face...and now faith hope, and love remain, these three.  and the greatest of these is love."  (1 corinthians 13:8a, 12a, 13)

see?  love wins.



Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. President, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-two million Negroes of the United States are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs, and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle, and to a movement which has not yet won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize. After contemplation, I conclude that this award, which I receive on behalf of that movement, is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.

Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later, all the peoples of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

The torturous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama, to Oslo bears witness to this truth, and this is a road over which millions of Negroes are traveling to find a new sense of dignity. This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new civil rights bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a superhighway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

I refuse to accept the idea that the "is-ness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "ought-ness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.

I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.

I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed and nonviolent redemptive goodwill proclaimed the rule of the land. And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.

I still believe that we shall overcome.

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally. Every time I take a flight I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible, the known pilots and the unknown ground crew. You honor the dedicated pilots of our struggle, who have sat at the controls as the freedom movement soared into orbit. You honor, once again, Chief Lutuli of South Africa, whose struggles with and for his people are still met with the most brutal expression of man's inhumanity to man. You honor the ground crew, without whose labor and sacrifice the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth. Most of these people will never make the headlines, and their names will never appear in Who's Who. Yet, when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live, men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners: all those to whom truth is beauty, and beauty, truth, and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Thank you. [applause]

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