A King's Legacy
One of the most poignant moments in the whole drama of Holy Week and Easter is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ (Mark 14:6). Everything else that follows hangs on this moment. If Jesus had decided otherwise – that it was too much, too scary, too costly, too painful, too inconvenient, that he just wasn’t going to do it – our story would be very different. And our call to do likewise would not be the same.
Following the path of Jesus, taking up the cross and doing God’s will has shaped the lives of many throughout Christian history. In lots of cases, we have never heard of them; their Gethsemane moment is private, and the life offered to God part of the patchwork of life in community where we don’t always notice the signs of the kingdom among us. For some the cup is a much more public one and the impact of their choice even more far reaching.
50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr was killed in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was shocking but not surprising. He had already survived attempts on his life and received numerous death threats. There was not one Gethsemane moment, but many. King could have backed away from the civil rights campaign, he could have lowered his profile, he could have left others to take up the cross, but his sense of being called to that work outweighed his fear. King’s vision of how the world could be was powerful enough to risk his comfort and stability, his reputation and even his life.
King’s legacy is immense and his death was part of changing the world. We still await the full fruits of that change, but as with all things kingdom, we live with the tension of it having been begun but not yet fulfilled. Vocation is not always easy. The temptation to back away from that which seems unpalatable, costly, painful, is strong and we can find many, many reasons to justify not drinking those particular cups. But our vocation is bigger than us and backing away from it isn’t just about a set of personal, private choices. Calling is how God works through us, how the kingdom grows and the world changes.
In this Easter week as we celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice once and for all and remember what it cost Martin Luther King Jr to do God’s will, the challenge is for each of us to risk praying as Jesus did: . ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’