Weighty Matters

Weighty Matters

It’s Wednesday. Easter is over. Well, not really; Easter is never really over. We celebrate it each week on Sunday morning. We are Easter people and people of the Book, people of the Word and people on the Path. In those early days of the emerging church, followers of Jesus of Nazareth were said to be on the Path; people walking the walk next to Jesus on an uncertain journey into the future. Theirs was an intentional Path of compassion, forgiveness, mercy and sharing of resources; the components of love as Jesus demonstrated it. They suffered at the hands of those in power who were threatened by their tenacity of faith, their quest for a just world without violence and their respect for all people. We are the modern version of those early people of the Path. We may need to reassess what it means to truly be those people and how we are doing at it, as does every generation.

Today, as I write, many of my clergy friends are discussing where they were on April 4, 1968. It was a Thursday evening just after 7:00 P.M. EST when the breaking news flashed onto the television screen: Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot in Memphis, Tennessee by an unknown sniper using a Remington 760 Gamemaster .30-06 rifle while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. He was pronounced dead an hour later. I remember crying and thinking of President John F. Kennedy who had already been assassinated five years earlier in Dallas, Texas. Just two months later in 1968, Robert Kennedy, younger brother of Jack, would die at the hands of another assassin at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. It was indeed a dark time in our history.

All three of these men, flawed as they might be, were champions of the people, everyday people like you and me. It’s something that seems missing in our day and might very well cause additional violence by those who would affirm compassion, forgiveness, mercy and the sharing of resources; love. So much of our world is focused on hate, violence, uncontrolled anger, fear and hate; toward people who we don’t even know, but are sure we should. Our leaders have told us so. Perhaps we need to reassess them as well.

Two things have weighed heavily on me this week. First was the death of Mireille Knoll. As a 9year old, she and her mother escaped a deportation of Jews by the Nazis from Paris to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. 13,000 were sent, less than 100 survived. Mireille returned to Paris from Portugal after the war. She was stabbed 11 times by an assailant at the age of 85 and her body burned because she was a Jew.

The second was the pending deportation of a Latino man who had served two tours of duty with United States Army in Afghanistan. Serving the country does not make you a citizen of the United States as it did in Roman times when serving in a Legion was a path to citizenship. Perhaps we could learn something from the Romans after all.

I should like to close with one of the haunting quotes from the time of the Third Reich. Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran Pastor in Germany, was a national conservative and initially a supporter of Adolf Hitler, but he became one of the founders of the Confessing Church, which opposed the Nazification of German Protestant churches. For his opposition to the Nazis' state control of the churches, Niemöller was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1938 to 1945 where he narrowly escaped execution. He wrote these words: 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.