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Discipleship Blog

Invitation to Beloved Community: A Reflection on Worship at Wesley from January 20, 2019

Tripp Gulledge

From Bo:

I hope you guys enjoyed worship last night! If you weren’t able to make it, I wanted to show you what we talked about because this message is very important for us as we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today. 

I’m going to summarize the message from last night’s worship (most of this is me paraphrasing what Tony and Joe shared.) I also will share a quote by Dr. King, some questions that our community reflected over, and then the text from Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” 

Tony and our guest speaker, ARM’s Joe Davis, applied King’s vision of a “Beloved Community” to the parable of the Lost Son from Luke 15, which you can read by using this link:

The parables that Jesus shares in Luke 15 all end in a celebration where all are invited to join together at the table. 

What kind of imagery does this vision put in our head? What kind of people do we envision at the table with us? Do we find ourselves thinking like the older son, that others are unworthy to join us at the table?

Dr. King in his essay, “Nonviolence: the Only Road to Freedom” (1966), presented his idea of a Beloved Community. This Beloved Community would be global, and would be rid of the “triplets of evil:” materialism (and thus poverty), racism, and militarism. 

This Beloved Community, to King, would be about reconciliation, restoration, and redemption. In the Beloved Community, agape—the highest form of love—would be a core value, and would lead us to not discriminate between “worthy” and “unworthy.” This is the love, as Joe said, that the older brother refused to receive. 

Joe asked some questions that I think is very important for us to ask ourselves: What stories and values shaped the life of the older brother, and of Dr. King’s assassin, and of those who resisted King’s message of love, peace, and nonviolence? And in answering these questions, we must then ask: What stories and values do we live by? How are these stories working out for us? How are these values affecting the people around us? How are we impacting our communities? 

Take some time to reflect on this, and then read this:

“The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The Resurrection is a symbol of God’s triumph over all the forces that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through History.” 

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Once we read this is the service, we were presented a few questions to reflect on before we joined together at God’s table for communion. Here they are:

1) The Cross - How do you feel estranged from God… lost… in this moment? Like the young son in the far away land, maybe tonight is a night of coming back to your senses and feeling the embrace of the father running to meet you. God is longing to restore us.

2) The Resurrection - How might we feel called to let go of the stories of the “older brother”? Maybe tonight is a time to name those stories of exclusion, of fear, of “othering”, of rejecting hospitality and scorning generosity that have blocked us and others from experiencing authentic community. God is longing to set us free. 

3) The Spirit - How are we feeling called to action, to radical acts of grace, of restoration, of redemption, of forgiveness, of hospitality, of generosity, of speaking out, of serving? Like the father running to embrace his son, maybe tonight is a night to say “yes” to that risky act of faith that will demonstrate the I love of Beloved Community. God is longing to empower us.

I attached Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” below. I hope you give it a read. 

May we all leave behind the stories and values that continue to justify our beliefs that others are “unworthy.” May we break down barriers of hate and prejudice that keep us from working towards a Beloved Community. And may we all join in together with God in the wonderful work that has already begun.

Read Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” here: