Lent 2018 - "The Fierce Urgency of Now"
By: Rev'd Dr. Johnny Jeffords
“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.” -- Rev’d Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev’d Dr. King spoke these words at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was murdered in Memphis. Driven by the inner voice rising in him, he spoke at a gathering of clergy and laity about the Vietnam War. His remarks are titled, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” It can be found in its entirety here. The upshot of his remarks are these – that after advocating and protesting for civil and equal rights, during which time the Vietnam conflict had continued to escalate, he came to see that a disproportionate number of those fighting and dying were poor. And that, as a matter of justice, silence would no longer do.
MLK advocated for an ecumenical movement grounded in love and justice. In the same speech, he said,
“A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.”
In a time of profound tribalism in the belief, propagated in media and reinforced in the body politic, that binary choices are the only ones to make – MLK’s call to action framed in the “fierce urgency of now” is as prescient in 2018 as it was 51 years ago, and in many ways even more so.
Thus, our Lenten season picks up the mantle of the phrase, “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” and makes it the centerpiece of our Lenten Worship. Lent as a season is a time calling us to inward work of spirit. Often it is the case that it’s been reduced to forgoing practices of life, certain foods and the like, for the 40 days of the season. The question always before is, to what end? Lent was originally a time for converts to the faith to prepare of the baptism at Easter. It was also a time for those who have been outside the ways of the church to do the work of penance seeking reconciliation and restoration.
What then does this season mean for us? Inward work is good. But absent outward action, expression, it means very little.That old Methodist line of “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace” resonates here. So our worship in Lent will consist of several elements moving us toward an outward expression of faith as we follow Jesus toward his Passion. Most notably, every week there will be a thing each of us can do, take on – embrace. Our slate of actions will be released in coming days and include moments to make a witness, advocate, and serve. Some of these can be done individually, others will be in community. As justice opportunities often arise in response to current events, our plans are subject to change and adapt to our community needs. In addition to scripture, we will have a spiritual reading excerpted from the sermons and writing of MLK.
Our preaching schedule for the Lent is as follows:
Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 6:30pm – Johnny
Lent 1, Feb. 18 – Johnny
Lent 2, Feb. 25 – John
Lent 3, March 4 – Johnny
Lent 4, March 11 – Johnny
Lent 5, March 18 – Johnny
Palm Sunday, March 25 – Mimi
Maundy Thursday, March 29, 6:30pm (Communion, Footwashing, & Tenebrae) – Johnny
Good Friday, March 20, 12:00pm in the chapel
The adult Sunday School class I’ve been teaching in the room outside chapel will move into the chapel for Lent. With the powerful backdrop of the stained-glass depiction of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, our time together will be devotional in nature. It’s called “The Way of the Heart: An Invitation to Be in Communion with Jesus.” The series is based on the Stations of the Cross, a deep devotional practice for Christians typically observed on Good Friday. We will use this time on Sunday mornings to lead us toward the cross and to Easter morning. Each Sunday there will be a brief video, prayers, questions to wrestle with, and a direction for how to move forward into the week ahead.
This Lent, ready your hearts to take on something of meaning for the good of the Realm of God, there is a fierce urgency to embrace for what the world needs . . . now!
Come, let us share in the Lenten journey together.
*Series art by Emily Harvey, Emkat Design