Tag Archive: Martin Luther King Jr.

Lectures and Beauty

“Verily” by Linda Ruth Dickinson 


Last night I was teaching about the means of grace. I have been exploring and working out a metaphor of a divine hug to attempt to illustrate God’s grace and our response and participation in God’s grace. It was a good class, but I came away feeling like something was missing.

I have encountered God in the morning reading scripture and feeling God meeting me and speaking into me as I journaled my reflections. There have been times of sharing in communion where I felt as if I were allowed to peak behind a veil to see the whole communion of saints across time and space sharing in a heavenly banquet and I was graciously let in to the party as a special guest among the likes of Abraham, King David, Martin Luther King Jr., my grandmother and so many more. Holding a hymnal or looking up at a screen singing with brothers and sisters in Christ in worship I have had those moments where singing became difficult as tears would well up as this became an encounter with the living God – God singing a song of love over us and our singing to God. I have tasted the laughter and joy in a group of friends intentionally trying to live faithfully together into what it means to be a disciple that seemed to be a wonderful step deeper into the abundant life Christ offers.

So maybe this was the difficulty of talking about these things in a class. Only giving lists and details of the means of grace will always fall short of actually experiencing it. Lectures point to the good and beautiful grace that saves us. Metaphors help point beyond themselves, but the true goodness of God’s grace is only brought a little closer by metaphor. The more I experience of God revealed in Jesus Christ in these means of grace the more words of a lecture falls short.

Maybe this is where beauty comes in. Not the beauty of God’s own handiwork like the stars of the night sky or a sunrise, God is already speaking there, but the beauty created by the artist who uses broad language that grabs at the whole of our being, that captivates, and inspires. Beauty created by our hands to grasp at and to express the deep mystery of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ. I am surprised that more theologians don’t become amazing artists, powerful poets, and marvelous musicians.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace that comes to us without our cajoling and convincing you to love. Thank you for the mysterious beauty of the cross and the empty tomb that demonstrates the infinite extent of your love, grace and power. May we find the ways your have gifted us to respond to your love and grace so that we are perfected in loving you, ourselves, and others. Send your Holy Spirit to inspire us to fashion beautiful words, movies, art, and music to express the grandeur of your grace and draws all deeper in to you to declare the glory of God. Amen.


Check out more from the Artist Linda Ruth Dickinson http://www.lindaruthdickinson.com/main.html

Roots and Wires

clarafications IMG_1250A few days before the turn to the new year Jill and my boys took me around downtown Raleigh to the Artspace. We met an artist named Clara Johnson (check out her website: http://www.clarafications.com/ !!! Amazing stuff! ). She has these fascinating 3D sculptures using wires and beads that just drew me into her studio. There was one in particular that hung on the wall of her studio with its burst of sun and trees that captured my attention. Clara and I began to talk about this work of art and little did I know how God was preparing me for this recent pilgrimage journey of exploring issues of race and the church in our state of North Carolina. As we talked I noticed the sun giving life to the two magnificent trees with their branches and roots breaking the boundary of the frame. Images of the tree of life and parables of the vine and branches were flowing through my mind as I gazed upon this creation, until she points out the tombstones lining the bottom of the art. What is death doing in this? In avoidance my eyes went back to the red and yellow sun. Then Clara helps my eyes see that connecting these two parental trees is the silhouette of the continent of Africa. I didn’t see it at first, but right before me was a grand history of family and a story of pride with branches reaching out. I was given permission to witness the amazing roots of family and love that hold strong and break the boundary of the frame itself, but some of those stones of death seemed to have their own roots of bitterness and pain acknowledging a reality of injustice that continues to hold up these trees and stones.

Now I find myself wondering and asking questions after this journey around North Carolina. I heard stories of masters, slaves, stories both personal and institutional of dividing walls of racism that still separate communities today, and I heard of the all-to-seldom hero that would speak and act as if dripping wet with the waters of baptism resisting injustice and oppression in their various forms.  It all makes me wonder what kind of roots are we laying down?  What kind of roots are holding us up? Do we have roots of love and life, roots of death and destruction, or a strange tangled mix of both holding us up? Are our branches building up hedges that keep out or reaching out breaking boundaries?

Lord Jesus, there are some branches that have tangled together because the roots of racism and prejudice have nourished our trees to form hedges that only separate. There are some roots of pain and injustice that need to be transformed by your redeeming touch. Master Gardner Jesus, have your way with our roots and branches and heal us. Restore this garden to loving, interconnected, abundant life.   Amen.

Clarafications IMG_1251

Thank you Clara for being willing to bear witness in your art to a story that is greater than the simplified story I only want to see.  You tell a good story.



Loving Your Enemies

I have found myself in a habit of reading or listening to a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. about once a year. So yesterday being a day in which we remember this great leader I Googled to find new sermon to read. (I need to just break down and buy a book with a set of his sermons)  I came across this one. The sermon was called “Loving Your Enemies” was delivered to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1957. He preached from Matthew 5:43-48.  While it is has a few cultural particulars of his day in regards to nuclear energy and communism it seemed amazingly on target for today. While the particular enemies that are depicted on the news and across the internet are different today in certain ways(in some ways they are NOT different) than during Dr. King’s day the message still stands. What Dr. King says is still a timely word of the Good News of God.

Here is just one paragraph, but the entire thing is worth listening to or reading!!!

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

Click here to read the entire sermon.

Lord Jesus, may the eternal weight of your love weigh down on us until we can’t take it anymore and we are transformed into a people who love like you.  Amen.

Irish rock star Bono has said, “Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

I continue to enjoy http://commonprayer.net/. I get tickled that one day we might get a quote from John Calvin or a 4th Century Desert Father and then the next day Bono or Martin Luther King Jr.  Can’t help but be drawn deeper into the presence of the communion of saints through this experience. 

Here is the prayer from today:  Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, O Lord, so we may not only see and receive your mercy but also notice the places in our world where you call us to extend mercy. Amen.