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Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

October 10, 2011

At the on-set of his public ministry, Jesus, who would be known as the Christ, set out to fulfill a mission:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,”

In this simple statement of purpose, Jesus declared the nature of his anointing – and by means of transference the Christian’s call. It is a mission of liberation, and contrary to the mainstream nature of the church today, it is not only an inward reflection pushing us toward repentance from some wrong we have done, but a mission of reclamation. He seeks to reclaim the inprisoned, to reclaim freedom lost and attain justice for those oppressed.

That is the nature of ministry the Christian church was founded upon. That is prophetic/holistic ministry. Throughout the African-American struggle for civil rights, this bedrock of Christ’s consciousness was the impetus for our movement. The SCLC was an expression of the prophetic call for justice; it was the impetus for the sermons of Vernon Johns, Dr. Martin Luther King’s predecessor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Montgomery Alabama, and mentor to Wyatt T. Walker and Ralph Abernathy; and most certainly the spirit behind “the Dream”.

I often wonder if this spirit remains at work in the modern church. For we are in need of that kind of power. As a minister, I often reflect on the call I believe mandated my ministry, and if I am living up to its high ideals. I’m sure many of my brother and sister clergy, Christian or otherwise, have done the same, and if so many of you must, as I have, come away from those reflections chagrined by the realization that you have not always carried your weight.

I say this because there is no doubt, that we are experiencing one of the most significant moments this country has known. There have been other galvanizing moments, to be sure, but none that has been so ubiquitous. We are a community undertow by waves of economic injustice and every portion of our beloved family has been pulled into its aggressive current. The great challenge of this generations clergy is to awaken from its slumber and take hold again of the plow of justice.

The call to action has never rung clearer than the pain filled cries of people, who continue to go marginalized by dangerous optimism and conservative hubris. On one hand there is an intransigent and unrelenting republican/tea-party that wishes to return to our unequal past; and on the other a paradox of progress, which has held us like Rip Van Winkle in fantastical stasis do to the success of the election of Pres. Barack Obama, and other African-American leaders, though the gains our struggle delivered unravel around us. 

I find myself asking: Where is my generation’s King? Who is our Malcolm? Who are our “Shining Black Princes and Princesses?” Those prophets who will not stand idle while millions go hungry, or succumb to debilitating diseases. Who are the evangelists for justice who still know that we are caught in an “inescapable network of mutuality?”

 This generation of clergy must reclaim its moral imperative to be “Good news to the poor,” to serve the broken hearted and set at liberty the captivated. We must act. Our voices as clergy persons are critical at this moment. It takes leadership and spiritual power to summon men to real change.

 Before his life was cut short, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to build a ground swell of people power with his Poor People’s Campaign, bringing the plight of the nations most aggrieved citizens to the forefront of the national consciousness. Today, that most at risk population is African-America, the poor and the middle-class. Our community needs its prophets to stand again at the vanguard with its students and unions and Occupiers in the fight for justice and fairness!

So many times I hear the question asked in derision,

“Where are these preachers?!”

I would say we’ve been secluded behind our doors. (Not all, but certainly most)

Maya Angelou, at the celebration of Coretta Scott-King’s life began her reflections with this refrain:

“I opened my mouth to the Looord a long time ago, and I won’t turn back nooo. I will go. I shall go. I’ll see what the end –  is going to be.”

Today, I’m sounding the alarm of a spiritual revival. I’m calling us, preachers/prophets, to take again the moral high ground. To set your eyes again on the prize of your high callings.  To walk circumspectly in them – to do the work of the ministry.  I know I have decided like Mother Angelou:

“I opened my mouth to the Looord a long time ago, and I won’t turn back nooo. I will go. I shall go. I’ll see what the end –  is going to be.”

Will you?

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