Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Br. Jim Woodrum

Read by Br. Jim WoodrumEphesians 6:10-20; Luke 6:27-36

Enemy:  someone who hates another; someone who attacks or tries to harm another; something that harms or threatens someone or something; a group of people (such as a nation) against whom another group is fighting a war.  Upon hearing this definition from the Webster Merriam Dictionary, ask yourself:  Who is my enemy?  Who hates me?   Who is trying to attack or harm me, my family, or my community?  I think most of us could think of someone or some group of people in which we could attach the definition of “enemy.”  There are those of us who have experienced violence first hand or have seen another attacked or chastised by an aggressor.  Others of us may only know our enemy at a distance; for instance in the social media paradigm:  Who on your ‘friends’ list stands opposite you in the Duck Dynasty debate?  It would be easy to see this as petty, but don’t underestimate the power of words to inflict violence and pain on those who are considered the enemy.  Seeds of physical violence often germinate in the soil of language before moving to weapons that can do physical harm.   Adolf Hitler certainly knew this.  So, who is your enemy?In his letter to the Church at Ephesus we hear Paul say something very interesting.  In what seems like a call to arms he says:  “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  He is saying that our struggle is not against each other but against the one who has been deceiving us from the very beginning.  You may recall our first lesson from Genesis yesterday at Morning Prayer:  Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made.  The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it [referring to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The devastation caused by the great deception in Eden seemed so easy to inflict.  Up to that point, the man and woman in the garden only knew ‘good.’  Afterwards, they and their progeny would be negotiating evil at every turn.  We see the first victim of senseless violence when Cain kills his brother Abel in fit of jealousy.  Our struggle is NOT against each other, but against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers of this present darkness; the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this principle.  He understood that the struggle was not the black man against the white man.  He knew that we were all victims of a greater evil and to meet violence with violence was to fall into the sin of Cain against Abel… against brother; both victims of the great deceiver.  He joined others not only of his faith, but of other faiths to stand up to the face of this evil with non-violence.  Instead of meeting force with force, he simply stood up in the face of this evil and said:  NO!  We cannot keep doing this to each other.  We are not each other’s enemies.  I think he answered Paul’s call to arms:  the weapons being the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God: Jesus Christ.

Father Benson, the founder of our Society said:  “…..In our struggle our true strength is to be restful, buried with Christ, abiding in God, that Satan may do what he will, but may find us unmoved.  Our triumph is tested by what we are able to endure.  The blows which Satan strikes upon us, if we can but remain firm, open out fissures, as it were in our earthly nature through which the divine light of the interior life flashes out to his overthrow.  We must remember this especially in our missionary work—that the strongholds of Satan are overthrown by the outflashings of holiness awakened by his assaults, when they are borne in the power of faith, much more than by any efforts which we can make on behalf of God by any natural gifts.”  Jesus, the Word of God (whom Paul called the ‘sword of the spirit’) said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High.”

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  1. carol carlson on January 17, 2022 at 11:21

    In this Epiphany season (and the rest of the time as well), my favorite ‘offertory sentence’ in worship is ‘Let your light so shine before others….’. (The entire congregation once switched on dozens of flashlights – promotional gifts – trained on me as I said it.) I will never say it again without thinking of Fr. Benson’s ‘outflashings of holiness’. That they are ‘awakened’ by the assaults of Satan adds a new dimension to this image. Thanks, Br. Jim!

  2. Claudia Booth on January 15, 2018 at 20:50

    Beautiful! A great tribute and much wisdom in your words. Thank you.

  3. James Rowland on January 15, 2018 at 11:11

    What a blessing to read this message today, Brother Jim. As the world continues to darken, the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King shines even brighter giving us hope. “Lead them (our enemies) and us from prejudice to truth, deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty and revenge, and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you”. (BCP. Prayer 6)
    May we shine with Christ.

  4. Larry Butler on January 15, 2018 at 11:07

    It is easy to feel angry and hateful. This very easiness ought to raise a red flag. Such feelings are really commonplace and undistinguished, and so they merely add to a vague soup of general strife. A feeling of what appears to be righteous anger sort of feels good but turns out to be rather paltry in contrast to a larger sense of peace and universal capacity for love. I guess I can train myself to apply this suspicion to myself and notice that the angry feeling isn´t the real deal.

  5. Anne Coke on January 15, 2018 at 10:28

    A while back, reading the day’s assigned psalm I was struck by these lines:
    ” We have had enough of contempt, and the scorn of the indolent rich and the derision of the proud.”
    I saw (it was a kind of scales-dropping -off- eyes epiphany ) that the people who are Trump loyalists may feel this way…discounted, called uneducated, stupid, not respected,laughed at, ridiculed, called Archie Bunkers.. I do not feel an object of contempt or scorn or derision. I have my dignity and must give others theirs.

  6. Shelley on January 17, 2017 at 12:10

    Thank you so much, Brother Jim. You have given us much to ponder about how Jesus would have us stand up to evils in ourselves, our communities, this nation, and this world reflecting a greater Evil that I scarcely can fathom.

  7. Harry on January 15, 2017 at 12:53

    GOOD Word for the day. I will think about it much longer. Thank you

  8. Polly Chatfield on January 15, 2017 at 10:56

    Dear Jim, Your strengthening words are not just for MLK Day or for this week, or for the next four years, but for our whole lives. If each one of us meets Satan as best he or she can, then we will be a mighty army for God’s justice.

  9. Marie on January 15, 2017 at 08:01

    This sermon has opened my eyes and my heart to a truth I have been unable to name in my lifetime, even after reading Paul’s words in Ephesians many times. I have spent most of my life thinking I had many enemies and many to hate (with good reason, of course!). In recent years I began to realize that the problem was much more my own than that of others. But now I realize even that falls short of the truth. The truth is that other humans are not my enemies! When we hate or attack, we are victims of a greater evil: the great deceiver. For me, this changes everything. I don’t need to blame anyone– not even myself, which is often more destructive than blaming another. Instead, I can put on the whole armor of God so that I may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil!

    • Robert on January 15, 2018 at 10:04

      This is a profound truth. In today’s super heated atmosphere and the hate mongers stirring up past hurts and resentments between men and women, black and white, national and immigrant, we need to see beyond the perpetrators of racism and misogyny and violence to the puppeteer who is pulling the strings. But thanks be to God that we are without excuse. He has provided us with all the armour we need to guard our hearts and minds and to Sally forth with the gospel of Love! We CAN love our enemies because the only real foe is Satan himself. All others who oppose us are merely his victims and are enslaved by their sin. May God grant us grace to forgive them for they know not what they do, and grace to love them, even as God so loved us while we were still in our sins and sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. May we be agents of his love and mercy and forgiveness and may His gospel of Love be heard and seen be everyone especially those who regard us as enemies.

  10. Transform | The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana on January 15, 2017 at 00:05

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  11. Ruth West on January 16, 2014 at 17:12

    Thank you, Br. Jim, for this good message.

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