Over the course of my six-plus decades of life, I’ve discovered (if I’m not careful) things— and people, can become a caricature of the original. Time can become a source of gloss or even a loss of memory.
I was in 4th grade when Dr. King was assassinated. Over the 55 years since his death, two things he spoke have become central in helping me understand and frame all that he did and all that he was. The first was what he stated on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial on the Washington, D.C. National Mall:
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.
A fierce urgency of now.
There was an incredible urgency to act then, and there’s an even greater urgency now.
To do what? Dr. King would would answer that question less than 5 years later on April 3, 1968. On the evening before he would be assassinated he preached these words,
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.
I just want to do God’s will.
Dr. King was 39 when he was assassinated. Thirty-nine! Not 49…59…69…not 79. He was 39!
If I can suggest a mash-up, Dr. King wanted to do God’s will, today— like, right now!
This suggests (demands) that doing God’s will leave no room, no quarter, no space for wasted time or effort.
It was interesting to witness the recent playoff football game between the Chargers and the Jaguars. I (along with practically everyone watching) saw and concluded that the game was won— over at halftime. The score was 27 to 7 and the play to that point— even the ensuing opening drive of the second half, indicated that the game was over. Victory was in-hand and clear. We now know the result. The assumed victory wasn’t.
The defeat was so strange (disturbing?) that I called my son-in-law for perspective. His was not just the perspective of any casual observer. He played the game at an all-star, Division I level. His assessment was a straight, no-chaser.
You have to play to the end.
That’s it? That’s it!
What does this have to do with me, with us? Pretty much everything! Personally, it forces a doubling-down on urgently doing the things we are called (created) to do. What’s more, we have to “play to the end.”
In the Gospel of Luke we read this account,
Every year Jesus’ parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up as they always did for the Feast. When it was over and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents didn’t know it. Thinking he was somewhere in the company of pilgrims, they journeyed for a whole day and then began looking for him among relatives and neighbors. When they didn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for him.The next day they found him in the Temple seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. The teachers were all quite taken with him, impressed with the sharpness of his answers. But his parents were not impressed; they were upset and hurt.His mother said, “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.”He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?” But they had no idea what he was talking about. (Luke 2:41-50, MSG)
A fierce urgency to do God’s will…now!
A p-k (preacher’s kid), Mark is the eighth of nine children born to Reuben and Henrietta Meeks, prolific planters of nearly 30 churches throughout the Central Valley of California. After four decades of teaching, discipling, and ministering, including to the hospitalized and imprisoned, Mark responded to God’s call to pastoral ministry. In addition to degrees in civil engineering and public administration, Mark received his Masters in Theology from Fuller Seminary.
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