About this time every year, as we approach the holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., I revisit some of the words, spoken and written, by that prominent Baptist preacher. He was a voice during a significant time in history, allowing the gospel to become tangible actions of mercy and justice. The words are rooted in a historical moment, but they are also grounded in the gospel, which continues to speak for all times.
One of those sentences spoken by King, which is rooted in the historical moment as well as grounded in the gospel, was, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” This sentence is complied of high altitude words because they take our feet off of the ground and allow us to look down with a grand perspective. We are able to see more than we normally see, reminded of what is most important, rising above small worries and minor concerns.
Even though these words take our feet off the ground, they still ground us in everyday life. They connect us to what binds us together as community of brothers and sisters, which is why they are also grounded in the gospel. In the church, we come together in order to practice the meaning of these words, extending a hand to one another, listening with empathy to each another, and sharing the journey of faith.
As the church, we practice the importance of these words, so that we can then take them with us into the community that surrounds us, where there are many challenges to making them a reality. As we practice community as a congregation, we learn that true community, built on kindness and patience, empathy and wisdom, is created, not given.
Practicing community is part of everything we do as a church. It is why we gather together to study scripture, listening for what it means to be a community; but also practicing it as well, as we ask questions, offer insights, and gain more than we give because we study together. It is why we gather our hearts in prayer, joining our concerns for one another with God’s concerns for all people. It is why we depend on one another as well as support one another in many different tangible ways, allowing grace to be seen and experienced.
When we look down on the church from above, we see people coming together, bound by the grace of God, practicing community, so that when we leave this place, we can better contribute to living together as brothers and sisters, not perishing as fools.