The Rare Word

In our life, we are constantly in conversation with something; whether we like it or not, we hear the voices of the world calling to us all the time; we see people talking on the phone while walking on the streets; some people leave their television on even when they take a nap; people watch their phones checking emails and text messages even at work places.

Yes, words are all over. We live in a flood of words.

We are tuned into the world and constantly in conversation with what is going on around us.

1 Samuel 3 describes the dramatic scene of Samuel’s call to ministry and it says that the word was rare and there were not many visions in those days. I am sure that there must have been a flood of words of all sorts in Samuel’s time just like today. But the word was rare; the word that cuts deep into people’s hearts; the word that gave people the ultimate hope.

As we as a nation are celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month, I think of him as one of the most important persons who had the word for us; he had the vision for our nation and his vision is still making our eyes open.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

What can be better words than these that really help us to envision a world and work together for the ideals this country stands for?

Dr. King may not have been a genius or a supernatural person. According to his biography, he never experienced a dramatic call to ministry as Samuel did. He said, ‘I’m the son of a preacher . . . my grandfather was a preacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher, my only brother is a preacher, my daddy’s brother is a preacher, so I didn’t have much choice.’ His call to ministry was rather a gradual one; along the way of his life, he had sensed the inner urge calling him to ministry.

Richard Lischer writes that when he reached 18, his father made an arrangement for his trial sermon in his church. And in the sermon the 18 year old youngster ‘spoke almost nothing of Jesus;’ and ‘the very fancy words’ he spoke that evening were borrowed from Harry Emerson Fosdick. But God gave him this courage to preach the Gospel and passion for justice and he later became one of the best preachers in the world.

What impressed me the most in the movie Selma was this: when Dr. King led the second march two days after the Bloody Sunday, the police and state troopers were on the other side of the Edmund Pette Bridge waiting for them to cross over and the marchers were standing in a distance quietly. In that eerie-felt-moment of standoff, Dr. King came down on his knees on the bridge for a short prayer and he decided to take the marchers back to the church. And one of the reviewers on the movie said online, “The measure of King’s greatness came not when he pushed forward but when he retreated…” And I agree. And later that evening, people got upset and tried to throw a fit at him asking why he did not move forward. And this is what Dr. King said to them, “What I want is people getting to vote, not getting them killed.”

He did not lose his focus even in that difficult moment; and his focus was peace and justice through non-violence. And he continued to call and convince President Johnson to help. Eventually, Johnson decided to allow the peaceful march toward Montgomery and The Voting Rights Act of 1965 came along.

God used Dr. King to speak the word and showed the vision in the time when the word was rare and vision was dim. God gave Dr. King the wisdom and leadership skill in that critical moment of our nation’s history that we all need to follow his legacy even today to build a society in which all God’s people can live a life of full capacity. And his word and life legacy still speak loudly in our ears. And now, God calls you and me to listen to his word in our own unique way so that your life and my life can be the continuation of Dr. King’s vision and legacy.

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