Listen to the audio of today’s Reflection:
Amos 5:10-15, 23-4
10There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.
11You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.
14Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.
23Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
My Necklace, My Hope
A reflection by Kathleen Atkins
Senior Vice President, Volunteers of America Ohio and Indiana
As I think about the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I think back to my childhood, listening to my mother and grandmother talk about him. My mother was born in Atlanta, GA, was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and played with Martin Luther King Jr. when they were children. My grandmother told stories of what it was like living in the segregated south. She spoke of the racial discrimination and Jim Crow. However, when my grandmother spoke of MLK her eyes lit up with a sense of pride and hope for my future. My grandmother was inspired by him and the movement he launched, as was I. And, although I knew nothing of the segregated south at the time, I did know what racial discrimination felt like. I witnessed first-hand my brother being harassed and accosted by Detroit police officers for no apparent reason.
I remember being a teenager and crying while listening to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. His message was one of freedom, equality, and most importantly, hope. I received a gift from my aunt. It was a necklace with the inscription “I Have a Dream” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was thrilled and proud to have something so special that represented MLK and remember showing it off to my friends. We chanted together, “I have a dream!”
This statement still resonates with me today, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter, gay pride, and gender equality movements. Watching our country continue to be torn and divided over color, gender, and political views, I feel the pain of other marginalized people as acts of discrimination are seen across America. My hope is for a unified country where everyone is treated equally, not judged by the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation.
A country where everyone is free to live, thrive and realize the American dream for themselves and for the generations to come.
A New Dawn: Reflections on MLK Day
Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice
President and Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine
As we reflect during this Martin Luther King holiday, his famous quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” is particularly poignant. Things seem dark right now. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, with COVID-19 claiming thousands of lives, and continuing to affect us in big ways and small. We’ve recently witnessed a complete lack of leadership and criminal civil unrest in our nation’s capital. Racial injustice, health inequity, economic and social instability, leave us feeling angry and disillusioned. It’s easy to allow darkness to permeate our thoughts and actions.
But what we have also seen throughout these very real challenges, is the best of humanity. Our healthcare systems taxed, we’ve seen professionals at all levels step up to care for the sick, test for COVID-19 using every resource possible, and educate the public on this new and unfamiliar enemy. Our education systems turned on a dime and made use of technology in innovative ways to keep our children educated and with a semblance of normalcy. We’ve seen programs launch to help feed those struggling with food insecurity, assistance for those who’ve lost their jobs and are struggling to pay for basic necessities such as housing, and even fun and innovative ways to entertain us as we quarantine to stop the spread of the virus.
We’ve seen light shine through every tough moment during the last year. And as we come upon the dawn of a new era of leadership in our country, and have access to a new weapon to defeat COVID-19 through the form of several effective vaccines, we can see that this quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” is more than just a quote. We can see that we are living this each day, driving out the darkness, and allowing the light within each of us to shine, touching everyone we come in contact with.
A closing thought from Henry
Last fall, I participated in an online class on “Racial Inequality and the Law,” offered by the University of Akron Law School. The class was taught by Brent Lee, a professor and associate dean. Because Dean Lee is Asian American, he could boldly speak truths that would have been rejected by African Americans coming from a white person, and by white people coming from an African American.
Here’s one that stuck with me – one I’ve thought about over and over since then:
Dean Lee said that the economic and social disparities between black and white people in our country are so great that one of two things must be true: Either African Americans are inherently inferior to white people, or there is serious and longstanding systemic racism in American society. There really aren’t any other choices.
So when white American followers of Jesus deny the reality of systemic racism in our society – even if we insist that we are not personally racist – we are affirming a belief that African Americans – including our black brothers and sisters in Jesus – are inferior to us. And if African Americans are not inferior to us, then systemic racial injustice exists around us, and we have an obligation as followers of Jesus to work tirelessly to end it.
Let’s pray: Lord, make us instruments of your peace and your justice. Show us how we can contribute to the continuing struggle for harmony and equality in our society, and help our country become what it has aspired to be since its founding: a society that lives out the belief that all people are created equal. Amen.
Grace and Peace,
(The listed readings for today are Psalms 135 and 145; Isaiah 44:6-8 and 21-23; Ephesians 4:1-16; and Mark 3:7-19a.)