For a Time Such as This

Martin Luther King JrAn American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

We are all on some sort of a journey.  We’re looking for something and often do not realize that it’s ourselves that we are in search of.  We are trying to hear the voice of God so that we can have some idea of our purpose on this earth and where God is calling us to go, who God is calling us to be.  Almost always, though, the answers are with us all the while.  It would be nice if we could get a loud obvious voice pointing us in the right direction saying, “I have made you for a time such as this!”  But that voice rarely comes for it is as Rumi said, “Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”

Eli was no longer able to hear the voice of God.  He had let himself get caught up in things that he shouldn’t have been involved in and it took its toll on his ability to hear that voice within the silence.  Samuel, however, was young and open to hearing that which he needed to hear.  He could hear the voice of God in the night piercing the silence and all of the events in his young life to that point came crashing together.  And so this 13 year-old boy became the last judge in the land of Israel and the first prophet.  A transition happened through one person.  An old era passed away and a new one was ushered in because a young man would listen.  Because he would open himself to hearing the voice of God, in one person the vision of God was revealed among the people.  For a time such as this, Samuel heard and answered the call.

Although Michael’s father was a pastor, Michael wanted nothing to do with it.  His father was very strict and wouldn’t allow drinking or smoking or swearing or any of those things and that’s likely why Michael engaged in all three in his rebellious youth.  Michael had more interest in intellectual things than in things of the spirit.  He went to college, went to seminary, and did his PhD – all before he was 25.  He pretty much makes me feel like a slacker. 

While he was troubled by the racial injustice and the social climate around him, he likely didn’t have much to do with it directly.  He struggled with who God was in light of the things that were happening around him and what he could do about the systemic oppression of African Americans, but often chose to do nothing.  It was while doing his PhD that he had a mentor who would be a theological “hero” of the UCC – Reinhold Niebuhr.  Niebuhr taught Michael that there was another way that existed in between sitting on your hands and doing nothing and resorting to violence.  He showed Michael that there was a way to protest and affect change in a very powerful and meaningful way that didn’t mean giving in to the practices of the oppressor, nor lying down and being complicit.  It was at this point that a social prophet was born.

Michael, who struggled with religion and philosophy realized that he couldn’t just sit back and let things continue the way they had been.  He was a young man who finally opened himself up to the voice of God and heard and in hearing became transformed.  It’s fitting then, that when his father, Michael King Sr., changed his name to Martin Luther, that junior followed suit.  Martin graduated and headed to Montgomery to pastor a church.

Martin was called to be a pastor.  But that wasn’t the full story.  God continued to speak and Martin continued to listen.  This modern day Samuel began to see that God was at work and things were unfolding before his very eyes.  When a 15 year-old girl was arrested for not moving and allowing a white man to sit on the bus, tensions started to build.  But when it happened again soon thereafter and Rosa Parks refused to move from the “colored” section of the bus because all the white seats were filled and was arrested for it, religious leaders in Montgomery decided it was time to do something.  The religious leaders knew there was something special about Martin.  They could see that he was a social prophet.  They could see that there was something special about this man just like Nathanael and Jesus saw it in each other.  When it came time to organize a bus strike in Montgomery and choose someone to be the voice of justice and humanity, they knew Martin was their man.  Martin had been prepared and called for a time such as this. 

You know how the rest of the story goes.  In some ways breathtakingly beautiful, in others tragically heart-breaking.  The story still continues to a great degree, but here we stand in a time when young men and sometimes even women are killing each other on the streets of Chicago and around the country for reasons that they don’t even comprehend.  We live in an era where small children are strapped with bombs and sent into crowded markets with false promises and abruptly halted dreams to take lives in the name of ideology.  We see children beating and cursing and hurting one another because of their socioeconomic class, their gender identity, or just because they are a convenient scapegoat in an unstable internal power struggle among children with no self esteem.  Kids are driving each other to suicide because they can’t even manage to look at one another as human beings who are, as the Psalmist says, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  We live in the midst of such a time and God is still speaking.  Are we listening?  Are we willing to hear what God has to say?  Can we be brave enough to stand up and say that we have a dream and that we will not stop until we see “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”?  Will we be silent or stand up until little boys and little girls are not judged by one another for their religion or their sexual orientation or gender identity or their socioeconomic status, but by the “content of their character”?  As we wander and seek and strain our ears to hear the voice of God to give us direction, might we stop and consider that God has already spoken in the silence and that we were fearfully and wonderfully made to be called for a time such as this?

One Response to “For a Time Such as This”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    As I mentioned to you after you delivered this powerful and poignant sermon, the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you did him (and the whole civil rights movement) proud.

    I sensed that you were particularly inspired that Sunday morning, and thereby lifted our spirits as well, and reminded us of the relevancy of Dr. King’s dream today.

    I also feel that you were made for our present day, here and now, to speak to us, for a time such as this.

    Thank you for continuing to lead your flock in the same vein (“content of our character”) as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr led his.


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