“I Will Not be Silent”

MLK Day Sermon 1/20/19
Robert A. Jackson, Jr.

At the All Saints Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

The Text

Isaiah 62:1&2 (CEB) & Luke 10:29-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Isaiah 62:1&2 (CEB)

For Zion’s sake I won’t keep silent,
    and for Jerusalem’s sake I won’t sit still
    until her righteousness shines out like a light,
    and her salvation blazes like a torch.
Nations will see your righteousness,
    all kings your glory.
You will be called by a new name,
    which the Lord’s own mouth will determine.

The Parable of the Samaritan

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three,do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


The following is an excerpt of Dr. King’s last speech (I’ve Been to The Mountaintop) that he gave in Memphis Tennessee on April 3, 1968.

“In the Human Right Revolution, if something isn’t done and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty,their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed.”

“Whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting amongst themselves.”

“But when the slaves get together, something happens. When the slaves get together,that is the beginning to getting out of slavery.”

“Let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants who happen to be sanitation workers. We got to keep attention on that.That’s always the problem with a little violence.”

“All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper.”

“You know what’s beautiful to me? It’s to see all of these ministers of the gospel.It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow, the preacher must have the kind of fire shut up in his bones and whenever an injustice is around, he must tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos who said, “When God speaks who can but prophecy?” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus,“the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me and he has anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”

“So often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry. It’s alright to talk about long white robes over yonder and all of its symbolism. But ultimately, people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It’s alright to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey. But God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here and his children who can’t eat (3) square meals a day. It’s alright to talk about the New Jerusalem. But one day, God’s preacher must talk about the New New York, the New Atlanta, the New Philadelphia, the New Los Angeles, the New Memphis, Tennessee.”[1]

Sermon Text

Like King, I stand here today as a messenger of God who is tormented by the pain and agony that is afflicted upon the disinherited of our society. Sometimes I experience that “Nathan Moment”. Have you ever experienced a “Nathan Moment”? That’s the moment when it is revealed that you have caused some of the affliction that is experienced by the disinherited.Nevertheless, I am learning the humbling art of preaching to self before and while preaching to others.

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!

Dr. King was a man who wrestled with his demons. And,he was also a man who was not silent about the injustices towards the disinherited. If we are honest with ourselves, we are also dealing with demons in our individual lives. I stand here today better understanding the inner conflict within us. The Apostle Paul said, when he wanted to do the right thing he didn’t. When there was something that he did not want to do, that’s exactly what he did. Our pride, arrogance, and idol worship keep us from acknowledging the humanity within our neighbors and even our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!

There are plenty of times that we have taken a selfish approach to life. I got mine and you get yours the best way you can.Too many times my white brothers have made comments about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe that it was Dr. King that said what is a person to do if they do not have any bootstraps? Too many times, white sisters have spoken up about the injustices towards women who looked like them but failed to see life from the aspect of all women of color. Black brothers have failed to prophetically preach against the sin of “whiteness” and failed to empower Black Women to speak into their calling of being prophets for the Kingdom especially within the confines of the American Empire. When I say“whiteness” it probably offended someone. They will not hear the rest of the sermon become of this one term. But, why? When I say “whiteness” I am NOT talking about skin color. I am NOT talking about an ethnic group of people. However, I AM talking about the imperialistic ideals of the Empire that have infiltrated the fellowship of the believers[2]. Some Whites, Blacks, and Latinos who reside in this country have allowed“whiteness” to tell those from outside of this society that they do NOT belong. Has “whiteness” become your religion?

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!

The institutions that claim to be of the Christ that want to truly make a difference must open their pocketbooks and their wallets. They must get out of their air conditioned and well insulated buildings. They must genuinely show up in the communities that are needing help. Don’t get me wrong,money is important to this conversation. It was important to further Jesus’ ministry. He had some financial donors. But, if we read closely, we see that his donors did not sit behind in their air-conditioned buildings. It seems that many of us want to go out of the country to do mission work. We will live in uncomfortable situations to do the work of God. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this work. However, I am saying that there is work to do at home. We debate over whether or not to build border walls, but when was the last time that someone who did not look like us get invited to cross to the inside of the walls of our houses to share a meal, coffee, or a conversation? We argue about the elephant and the donkey but fail to remember that these are two sides to the Empire’s politics. The politics of the Kingdom transcend both of them. Too many of us have fallen prey to idol worship because we have allowed the Empire to determine how we view humanity versus allowing the Christ to be the example to follow. When people are struggling to feed their families and pay their bills because the Empire decides to through a temper tantrum, do we just shrug our shoulders because of our hatred towards those whose politics do not match ours? Are we seeking to justify our apathetic response to the suffering of others? Who is my neighbor?

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!  

Dr. King was encouraged by the number of ministers that were in the audience during his speech. My pain is always the lack of preachers that are in attendance when matters of justice are being discussed.It has happened to me at church and school. Too often, the preachers in our faith tradition are either absent or silent. There will be plenty of events to get involved in matters of justice on tonight and tomorrow. But, how many of our preachers will show up? I have had several conversations over the years with preachers, both male and female, about us living out and teaching the people of God about the things that mattered to Jesus in Luke 4. I have asked them, “Are you willing to die for the cause of Christ”? Maybe, I should reframe the question. “What are you willing to give up to answer the calling that God has upon your life”? Will your sociopolitical ideologies allow you to continue to verbally and ideologically oppress, your black, brown, LGBT sisters and brothers? Will you continue to allow your socioeconomic status to cause you to overlook the poor of all races and nations? Will you continue to allow the traditions of your denominational tribes restrict you from living out the gospel? Will continue you allow those “in charge” to hold a paycheck over your head instead of attempting to be true to the Mission of God? Will you allow your patriarchal and misogynistic thinking to silence women and continue to add victims to the #MeToo and the #ChurchToo movements? Will you allow the idol worship of the “whiteness” in your life to control your thinking of who is or is not desiring of the Love of God? Will you continue to allow the cognitive dissonance and willful ignorance of your cultural upbringing to overshadow who the Spirit of God wants you to become? I believe that Dr. King was correct in his assessment that the preacher is more concerned about himself or herself that he or she is with others. However, I would conclude that the American Christian is more concerned about himself or herself than for others who do not look like him or her. He or she has replaced empowered empathy with anemic sympathy. He or she will acknowledge other followers of Jesus as fellow believers but will NOT acknowledge them as sisters and brothers. This negligence makes it easier to mistreat and overlook a sister or brother in Christ. 

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!  

The justice of the Bible is not a social secular movement. This is a Jesus movement. It is not the theoretical and lackadaisical teachings of “whiteness”. It is the gospel in action. We have to be honest with ourselves that we all have some sort of evil and sin in our lives. But the question becomes… Have we allowed them to overtake us? Has it become our God?

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!  

Now that we have dealt with the individual, lets deal with the community. The American Church is living in sin. It needs to repent of its idolatry and its adultery. It has taught the world to hate, it has taught the world to segregate, it has replaced the Apostles with politicians, it has replaced the Spirit with guns, it has replaced Jesus with Presidents, it has replaced God with the Supreme Court. The Bible has become a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Just like the Rich Young Ruler, it refuses to acknowledge the dignity of the disinherited by referring to them as “illegals”,“aliens”, or “those people”. It has silenced victims in order to protect the power structure. It practices a theology that is Anti-Christ when it tells disinherited people HOW to feel instead of asking them HOW they feel or instead of asking to see WHY they feel the way the feel. It seeks to be understood instead of seeking to understand. It has played the harlot with the Empire. The American Church needs to reclaim the mission of the ecclesia. It needs a rebirth. It needs to rededicate itself to Jesus.

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!  

Who is my neighbor?

Remember these words of Dr. King…

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”[3]

For the sake of the Good News, I will NOT be silent!  

[1] Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” (lecture, Mason Temple, Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixfwGLxRJU8.

[2]Willie James Jennings, “Can “White” People Be Saved: Reflections on Missions and Whiteness” (lecture, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, February 24, 2018),  https://youtu.be/SRLjWZxL1lE

[3] I have italicized and putDr. King’s words in quotations in an attempt to fully give him credit.

One Response to ““I Will Not be Silent””

  1.   Harold Vann Says:

    Thanks for your study, teaching and preaching. I have never heard or read you without being motivated toward improving. At 89 I am spending more time on my Spirit and less on my body. Communicating with prisoners has taught me much. I recommend becoming involved with The World Bible School thru which you can communicate with prisoners effectively. You can encourage, teach by letters and furnish appropriate books from publishers. What do you imagine would result if every follower of Christ were to communicate with one prisoner at a time for the next 30 years? The US has more incarcerated souls than any other country. Please review Matthew 25:31-46. Let’s use our time and money wisely. Look around your location and count The steeples. Thanks again John Mark.

Leave a Reply