Dear members and friends of VP,
My mind is daily thoughtful of those who are suffering from the damage done by natural disasters and a growing concern for a divided America. The damage done to human lives by earthquakes and hurricanes is frightening and discouraging. The division in America over ideologies and race is disheartening. We can find comfort in coming together to support people who are suffering in times of need. We can also find comfort in our potential to bring peace through our disposition in a divided America.
Compassion for our fellow human beings who are suffering demands response from each one of us individually and as a church. Help Valley Park provide help to those in need. Checks written to “Valley Park Church” and designated for “Disaster Relief” will help our efforts to help those who are struggling. Note the following commitments of our denomination.
VALLEY FORGE, PA (9/22/17)— In response to the devastating one-two punch leveled at Puerto Rico first by Hurricane Irma and most recently by Hurricane Maria, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), in partnership with American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA), will launch a multi-year initiative, “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico.”
VALLEY FORGE, PA (9/19/17)— American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) continues to provide support to the survivors of hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Louisiana, and Irma in Puerto Rico and Florida. In both efforts, Donations can be made via your church with 100% of donations going to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs.
Amidst suffering from natural disasters, we are also being confronted as a nation with a variety of expressions of frustration and anger as a result of racial division, prejudice and political persuasion. These displays are everywhere: sports events, media, talk shows, marches, colleges, freedom of speech, and broken relationships. There is a loss of respect and kindness expressed in every arena. Is there a reasonable cause for what we are witnessing or is the value system of an America that has rejected the existence and authority of God being exposed? This is worthy of analysis. But the greater concern for a Christian is maintaining a Christ-like witness in the face of a culture that is being disrupted on many fronts.
I have been mindful of one of our most life-changing American Baptist Ministers; Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968). He was the spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. He is well-known for a speech he gave in Washington, 1963, entitled “I Have a Dream.”
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…”
As an American Baptist Minister, Dr. King respected the values expressed in the “Declaration of Independence” while being disheartened by the racial inequality that denied it’s vision for a healthier America. The Declaration of Independence was clear in its dream for America.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
As a minister, Dr. King addressed the problem of racial inequality by respecting and elevating the American Dream. He placed the blame for racial inequality on the hearts of people who could not imagine or were unwilling to embrace, the American Dream. He imagined a day when the American Dream would be a reality for his children.
We to should dream of a day when the American dream will be realized because it represents the vision of God for the Kingdom of God. We embrace that dream by living it in our lives regardless of the numbers of people who work against it. Dr. King embraced the call to be Christ-like and that is why his vision made a difference. Just days before his assassination, February 4, 1968, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in speaking about how he wished to be remembered after his death, King stated:
“I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody…. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity…. And all of the other shallow things will not matter… But I just want to leave a committed life behind.”
Let us remember that Dr. King exemplified a life lived for the dream of a healthier America exemplified by a vision for the Kingdom of God on earth. Our problem is not the dream of America but the human heart. Let us determine, like Dr. King, to align our hearts with a peace-loving, kind and respectful approach toward the people who undermine the American dream. Let’s trust God to do in America what no man can do.