Monday, January 20, 2014 – Week of 2 Epiphany, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 25 (morning) // 9, 15 (evening)
My elementary school always observed Martin Luther King Day by holding an essay-writing contest. Each student had to write some sort of essay inspired by King’s legacy and his dream for America. I think I was in third or fourth grade when I showed my essay to my mother. After listing many great things about King, I wrote that Martin Luther King, Jr. “was probably the next God made man.”
I had clearly absorbed enough liturgical phrases to know that calling someone a “God made man” was the highest possible compliment. Jesus was special because, according to the Creed, he came down from heaven, and was made man. I could think of no better way to describe someone’s greatness.
My mother gently corrected my theology without downplaying the vision and contribution of King. I learned that, in Christian salvation history, the incarnate Christ was the only person of God who had been made man. But I am sort of pleased that my younger self wanted to see King’s work through the frame of my faith rather than simply on the terms of my public school.
Today, let’s take a moment to put “The Rev.” back in “The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” In a sermon preached in Chicago in 1967, King said, “before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher.”
King wanted to remain a preacher—a man ordained by God to a special ministry. Our second reading today describes ordained leaders as people chosen to offer gifts and sacrifices, people who can deal gently with others because they themselves are subject to weakness and need forgiveness, and people who do not take their priesthood to glorify themselves.
This priesthood is something that we all can share through our unique gifts, callings, and contexts. The Baptismal Covenant welcomes each of us into an eternal priesthood, into a ministry of resisting evil, proclaiming good news, seeking Christ in all persons, and striving for justice and peace.
What if our primary plan, like King’s, was to fulfill this first calling, our greatest commitment? What if we saw our whole lives as mere extensions of our ministry? What if we had no ambition beyond excellence in whatever Christian ministry God was calling us into? I’m not sure that we could predict all of our achievements, but surely we would enter the kingdom of God, God’s dream for all of her children.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.