A call to courage for 2021
Posts I have seen online in the first two weeks of 2021:
“I’d like to cancel my subscription to 2021. I’ve just finished the free 7-day trial, and I’m not interested.”
“Seems a lot like 2021 keeps asking, ‘What would 2020 do?’ ”
#2020 became a coping-mechanism joke, and so far 2021 is keeping up the habit — and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you why. Each of us carries our own personal list of how the pandemic and political turmoil continue to affect our own lives. We make jokes to try and survive through our hurt and fear.
We live in times that demand more of us than we think we have to give. And as people of faith we are called to more than survival, more than treading water, more than keeping the ball rolling, more than sighing when we hear the news. Washed in the unconditional waters of baptism, we are called to renounce all the forces that defy the will of God, from the cosmic forces of evil, to the powers of this world (like white supremacy, greed, and hate), to the personal temptations we face.
We are called to “trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship’s rite of Holy Baptism).
But how do we do this when the world is on fire? When we have to take safety precautions just to visit our neighbors? When our capitol was invaded by fellow Americans, and we fear what might come next? When following CDC recommendations becomes something to fight over? When it takes all that we have just to raise our children, keep up with work, worry and mourn our loved ones, and manage our own feelings?
As the nation prepares to commemorate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend, let’s reflect on how God moved in King’s life during his times of trial.
Throughout King’s work for civil rights, he received public criticism, menacing phone calls (up to 40 a day!), and death threats. His home was even bombed by a white supremacist. In recent years we’ve taken these stories in stride as King has become a larger-than-life hero, more symbol than man. But he was human, too.
After one really disturbing phone call, King couldn’t sleep. He stayed awake wondering if he could continue the work. This is how he described that dark night of his soul:
I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud…The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. “I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.” … It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world.”…He promised never to leave me alone. At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice: “Stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.” Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”
What do you relate to in King’s story? Long nights where sleep won’t come? Exhaustion? Doubt? Others looking to you for confident leadership?
My prayer for all of us this week is that we will also come to connect with the divine element in King’s story. To remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, the promise we inherit: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
In the silence of your own dark night, may you hear God speaking those words to you, too.
Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image. Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression. Help us, like your servant Martin Luther King, Jr., to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your holy name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Jan. 13, 2021
Rev. Katherine Museus Dabay serves as university pastor at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and takes turns writing weekly devotions with University Pastor James A. Wetzstein.
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A call to courage for 2021
- A charming tale for over-achievers
- A Lesson On Beans … and Being
- A New Place
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- A Time of Dust
- Acquiring a peaceful spirit
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Anastasis: the Greatest Story of God’s Saving Power
- Another kind of darkness
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- As if we needed a reminder
- Beacons of hope
- Better Together
- Blessings As You Go
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Fear of the Lord
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Getting through this together
- God is not overwhelmed
- Good Friday
- Grief & Graduation
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How do you keep from giving up hope?
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- Imagining Eternity
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In everything, grateful
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Jesus among us
- Killing off our future selves
- Knowing a Good Thing When We See It
- Lessons in fire building
- Let there be light!
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- Naming our demons
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- On the day after the night before
- Persistent and Extravagant
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Praying for Reconciliation
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Rest is Holy
- Right where we are
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Surprisingly Simple: Breathe!
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Trouble with Mammon
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You might be a Lutheran if…
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- WWJD? We already know
- Walking in the Light of Jesus’ Resurrection
- We had hoped
- We’re on a mission from God
- What do you do with your anger?
- What good is a shepherd?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When God uses something terrible for good
- When heaven & earth click
- When joy and sadness live together
- When stress overwhelms
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- When we are moved
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Won’t you be my neighbor?
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future