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Words matter

Martin Luther King, Jr Day – January 15, 2024


It is no coincidence that Jesus is identified as the Word of God who was in the beginning with God, through whom all things were created, the Word that became incarnate to dwell among us. That is how deeply God desires that we receive and experience this life-giving word. 

Throughout his ministry, Jesus used words in his teachings, sermons, and parables to describe the reign of God – a way of being and doing that was very different from the way we "normally operate," inviting his followers to participate in this reign where all are welcome at the table, the least are the greatest, and the highest values are compassion and love. His words did not paint a vision of some pie-in-the-sky heavenly escape but of God's transformative reign breaking into our world. His words continue to invite us to "come and see" God's dream and desire for our world.


Martin Luther King, Jr was a man who grounded his life and actions in the word of God, the gospel of Jesus. He used his words to invite and inspire us to see his dream of a time in this country "when we allow freedom 

to ring . . from every state and every city . . . to speed up that day when all of God's children, black (men) and white (men), Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last." Before he spoke these words, he spoke in very concrete and specific ways about the injustices that people of color experienced. He used his words not to tear down individuals or move people to despair but to name the realities of racism. He spoke hard, uncomfortable truths to set the dream in stark contrast to the reality of our world. He did so as the inspiration for the dream where all would be treated as God's beloved, a dream that we could make possible if we have the courage to use our words in ways that bring transformation and freedom. 


As we once again commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr, aware that his dream, that God's dream incarnate in Jesus, has not come to its complete fulfillment, I invite us to ponder the question, "How will we use our words?" Knowing that words matter, how will our words (and actions) invite people to come and see a different reality? How will our words inspire and build up a society where all are free to be who God created them to be rather than in ways that tear down and demean those who are different? Will we be open and compassionate to hear the words of others, their stories, and experiences so that their words might inspire something in us? How can we be the incarnation of God's word and invite others to dream of that day when all will be "free at last!"?    


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Good essay. Thank you!

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