In the presence of love
Mark 7: 14-23
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
20 He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’
Atlanta, August 2017. It is two weeks after the ugly parades of White Supremacy activists, and the ensuing riots, in Charlottesville, Virginia. We sit in an African-American congregation, inspired by jazz singers and the gospel choir. An old man shuffles forward slowly to preach. Before he says a word we sense the spiritual stature of the man.
His message is clear. “Hatred comes from fear. Fear comes from not knowing that we are loved by God. Overcome hatred with love.”
Later we tell friends about him. Andrew Young was his name. Their mouths drop open. The Rev Dr Andrew Young was right hand man to Martin Luther King. At the age of 88 the preacher still stirs up the hope of love amidst the rising tide of hate.
Raise up the preachers, Lord
who speak from the heart of God
to the hearts of the people.
No more heady lectures and safe homilies,
but preachers who release the life-giving word
of God in the power of the life-giving Spirit,
in the expectation of raising up life-giving people
who pay the price of overcoming hate with love. AMEN.