I was privileged to hear Rev. James Lawson speak recently. He is a retired United Methodist pastor, now in his 80‘s, and living in California. He was a close friend and colleague of Rev. Martin Luther King and served as one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. His talk was inspiring in that he focused on the spiritual aspect of their work together for freedom and rights for all people.
He said that they understood themselves as followers of Jesus Christ first. They recognized that forces of violence and prejudice were strong and could not be addressed simply by means of social and political action. As a result, they spent a lot of time in prayer and Bible Study. Prayer kept them strong and focused on the dream rather than on retribution for the enmity that came at them.
Rev. Lawson went on to say that the need for prayer and Bible study, in order to be renewed, challenged and strengthened by God’s presence and Word, is even more critical today even than it was back then. This is a time in which we are in danger of becoming complacent and to discount the power inherent in our faith. Prayer offered individually and collectively is the greatest resource there is for our own freedom and redemption as well as for others.
As we recall and give thanks for our saints on this All Saints Day, let us also remember what it was that made them saints. For the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, flawed as they were, they did what they needed to do in order to stay in close partnership with Jesus. Saints are not perfect people. They simply know from whence their help comes - their help comes from the Lord who is the maker of everything.
We give thanks for our saints today, those who are living and passed, who continue to point us toward you, O God. May we find in our time, the courage and fortitude to keep moving towards you even when we feel lost and confused. For you are the light and hope not only for us but for all people. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.