…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…. When Martin Luther King, Jr gave his “Mountain Top” some say it’s message was prophetic. Perhaps there is some prophecy, but I also hear hope, encouragement and a sense of peace as well. It’s the peace that comes after the challenge of a long journey. From his first movement in Montgomery 1955, to his last ending in Memphis, 1968, King Jr. could see that much had changed across the nation in those 13 years, but not before many had died. He himself had changed but not before realizing that “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” As dark as those times were, the nation was responding in ways it hadn’t responded before King took on the challenge to climb that mountain called injustice and segregation to name a few. When he reached his top, his message was to give us hope and encouragement. God gives us the privilege to go up the mountain. We only have to be willing to take the climb.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:1-18 In the “Invisible Man” Ralph Waldo Ellison describes invisibility like being in a dark, black hole; lighted with 1369 light bulbs. When he is out of the hole, he speaks of struggles, battles, and disappointments, trying to do the right thing as those around him define what was right. Yet somehow, he could never be seen. I have to admit, sometimes life in Christ feels much like Ellison’s character. Given the time and place, I wonder if Christ sometimes felt the same way – at least until the day he climbed up that mountain. Literally or figuratively, to climb atop any mountain is in itself a feat to be celebrated and not without internal reward. However, eventually the journey back down the mountain has to be made. Upon his return, Jesus met with the same anxieties of life that plagued God’s people before he went up to pray. But he met them with a re-affirmation, a stronger resolve to accomplish the Father’s will and the confirmation that he in fact is the light that brightens a dark world. Today, through our faith in Christ we too are that light for a veiled world. We meet with the same anxieties of the poor in spirit, the marginalized and the disinherited. And, yes sometimes we go unnoticed. But the affirmation and confirmation that is Christ’s is also our affirmation and confirmation, a gift from God for those who choose to climb that mountain and return re-affrmed to continue the mission of Christ, in a veiled and broken world, knowing that no matter how dark it gets, we are never invisible to God.
Luke describes Jesus’ baptism as the Holy Spirit descending upon him in bodily form like a dove. In remembering my own baptism, while quite exhilarating, the only thing I felt was cool water rushing away from my body as I was pulled up out of the water. I could however, imagine what it was like for the many who came to John to be baptized. However, John himself admitted that this was just a physical outward experience representing the initiation of what will happen later on the inside, a change in how we understand ourselves as God’s own. As our thoughts begin to change, so will our actions. Although some of those actions have caused “Mountain top” as well as “Damascus” events in my life, I now realize that they were all part of the journey that I’ve taken since that “dip” in the water. Back then, I may not have seen the heavens open up or felt the Holy Spirit embrace me like the giant wings of a dove but what did open up was my heart making room for what John the Baptist promised would happen; the discerning of the Holy Spirit. To the glory of God, I’ve been changing ever since.
Luke 3:16 ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.