Ferguson, Breath, and Justice

Ferguson, Breath, and Justice

When Derrick Rose wore a pre-game warm-up shirt that said, “I can’t breathe,” I sensed that a movement might be underway. When Nashville residents laid down in the middle of Interstate 24 on a busy Thanksgiving traffic night, I sensed that a movement might be underway. When Isaiah Fish, TNU Class of 2014 and M.Div. Candidate at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, wrote me about his social justice concerns, I sensed that a movement might be underway.

Is Ferguson and New York City a one-week news cycle or the beginning of a call for justice from a nation still sinning and healing?

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What Would Jesus Say to Donald Sterling?

What Would Jesus Say to Donald Sterling?

What would Jesus say to Donald Sterling about recent events in his life? I think Jesus might say something like this:

When I came to earth to do the work of my Father, I laid aside all power and took the form of a servant. I came not to do my own will, but his. The culture I was born into was Jewish. These people had a rich, storied past with traditions that formed generation after generation. They believed they were the chosen people of my Father—and they also believed, mistakenly, that their chosen-ness was about privilege rather than service.

I found myself deeply at odds with the people of my own race and culture. I knew that I was sent to seek and save the lost, the outcast, the neglected, the poor, the outsider—to make one people out of many. They preferred that I do miracles only among the chosen people and that I lead a political revolt to restore power to them over the occupying enemy. My refusal to adopt their agenda cost me my life. My crucifixion was their way of saying that I was cursed by God and an enemy of the people of God. They called my words blasphemy. Abandoned to the grave, I would have been a minor footnote in Jewish history – a deluded messianic figure who ran afoul with the Jewish religious establishment and the Roman rulers.

But my Father had other things in mind. He raised me from the grave and now I sit at his right hand interceding for those who need the grace available in me. Donald, my Father loves all peoples and redeems all wrong—even yours.”


Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I grew up in southern Mississippi during the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement was trying to make inroads into a culture steeped in racial prejudice. I saw oppression firsthand. Most of the white churches had already decided that blacks were not welcome. They had a plan in place should any of “them” try to worship with “us.”

But there was one church, the Baptist Church on North Locust Street, which opened its arms to anyone who wanted to come. A brave pastor took a minority stance among his clergy peers. He resisted the downward pull of prejudice and welcomed blacks to worship with his white congregation. The Ku Klux Klan burned his church. There was a charred cross on the front lawn. It signified a very different kind of power than the power of Jesus’ cross.

On this day of remembrance and thanksgiving for the ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr., I will be re-reading once more his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. These words, written on scraps of paper, have become a holy reminder to me that power is not the ability to harm others but the ability to endure suffering for the good of others.

The power of Jesus is clothed in weakness, connected to the Cross, and viewed in a slaughtered lamb. The heroes of the coming kingdom will be people like that Baptist pastor who took a stand and Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote liberty on scraps of paper.

And while their power will be unimpressive in today’s dark world, the morning star will rise, a new day will come, and power will turn upside down.

Image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: VladEn via Compfight cc