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Dear friends,

Shall we overcome? It depends on you and me. This weekend the Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. interfaces with the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. What a call to our responsibility to stand up and speak out for what we believe in!

Many people feel anxious about what this new year holds for us and our world. It is disappointingly surprising that the words of MLK still speak so pointedly to our situation today. We invite you to ponder with us about building more peace, more connectedness, more inclusiveness in our world. We wonder what actions we might take in the coming year to bring this into being? (And, we invite you to join us on the eve of the inauguration for a Light Shining in Darkness Prayer Service. Details attached and below)

Yesterday, we received a compelling video of Nina Turner as she offered a “rousing sermon” to an assembly gathered at the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in DC this weekend. In her powerful voice, Nina passed on to all some words of wisdom passed down by her grandmother. “We need three bones to be successful in life: a wishbone will keep you hoping and praying because hope is the motivator, but the dream is the driver; the jawbone will give you the courage to speak truth to power; and the most important….. backbone to keep you standing through your trials and tribulations.” For many of us, these days are indeed time of “trials and tribulations.” The feelings generated within me (Jean here) in moments such as this often flash me back to my years as Chaplain at The Hospice at Mission Hill. Many of you have heard me speak before of how I was impacted by my ministry to/with the men and women living with HIV/AIDS who died at this residence. These people truly knew what it was to live through “trials and tribulations.” For many, that had been the sum and substance of their lives. But they had hopes and dreams too….and some truly had a gift for “speaking truth to power.” What comes most to mind in this conversation, however, is the capacity of many to find new dreams and hopes, and who learned to “give voice” perhaps for the first time in their lives to their needs and yearnings; and to live into their dying in a way that brought them dignity and blessed us as caregivers with a reason to “keep on keeping on.” Yesterday, in my homily I shared a bit about “Skip” … a charming very young man who came to us after having lived on the street since he was 14 years old. I have many “Skip” stories, but among my favorites is the day I brought him Communion, and he asked if he could bring Communion to the man in the next room. It seems he’d befriended this rather reclusive resident and was sure that while he might refuse Communion from me (the Chaplain!), he was sure he’d accept it from him. My heart was so touched to sense the transformation within Skip that led to his being to this sacramental moment. Both of these men were the embodiment of “trials and tribulations” and yet in the midst of their personal struggles, there was interior power and strength to both reach out and to receive. We, as citizens of this country, in these difficult days are called to reach out to one another in love and care, respect and hope, to be the “good news” for one another….and to open our hearts to receive the “good news” as it shows up in our lives.

Yesterday at liturgy, we shared the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. copied below as one of our readings. We invite you to read and reflect on these compelling words of wisdom, and ponder how they might be calling you to action.

WORDS FROM MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Stride Toward Freedom the Montgomery Story - Chapter XI Where Do We Go From Here

Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers
As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."
Deep down in our nonviolent creed is the conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true that they’re worth dying for…. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.
When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality….We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

I'm not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order….When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows….I haven’t lost faith because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

The Wisdom of our God in the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the inspirations that anchors us as we move into 2017 is Jan Richardson’s reflection on the verse from Psalm 139: “O God you search me and you know me!” This a blessing that Jan entitles “Known.” It fits perfectly with the message of the Baptism, God saying to Jesus and to you and me: “You are My Beloved, My Own, in whom I take delight.” It provides the grounding and the courage for our words and actions in the world.
Known
A Blessing
First
we will need grace.
Then
we will need courage.
Also
we will need
some strength.
We will need
to die a little
to what we have
always thought,
what we have allowed
ourselves to see
of ourselves,
what we have built
our beliefs upon.
We will need this
and more.
Then
we will need
to let it all go
to leave room enough
for the astonishment
that will come
should we be given
a glimpse
of what the Holy One sees
in seeing us,
knows
in knowing us,
intricate
and unhidden
no part of us
foreign
no piece of us
fashioned from other
than love
desired
discerned
beheld entirely
all our days.
– Jan Richardson

At The Spirit of Life, our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create a community that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life.

We pray Abundant Blessings on you, your loved ones, your dreams and your reaching out to brighten the world of those around you!

With loving blessings,
Jean & Ron