Mission On Your Doorstep
Reclaiming Our Mission,
Reclaiming Our Prophetic Voices
Throughout the biblical record, it appears that the number forty has a very special significance. The mythic flood that nearly destroyed the whole earth was the result of unrelenting rain that lasted forty days and forty nights. God led the ancient Israelites through the wilderness for forty years. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights just before his time of testing with the adversary. There are just over forty occurrences of the phrase "forty years" between the book of Genesis and the sermonic letter to the Hebrews. The number forty seems to suggest periods of probation, preparation, and provision.
It was forty years ago this spring, on April 4, 1967, that the 20th century's most celebrated public theologian, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., challenged church leaders to reclaim their mission and their prophetic voices. One year to the day before he was assassinated, King addressed the organization Clergy and Laity Concerned at the Riverside Church in New York City. During his "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" address, King said:
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.