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

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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…..brother 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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6 Comments

  1. 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.

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

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

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

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

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

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