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Prophets can be Cranky

Posted by John Sommerville on

The primary role of the Old Testament prophet was not predicting the future, but telling the truth. Prophets can be cranky. They can make us feel uncomfortable. They ruin dinner parties reminding us of things we’d rather forget.

Dr. Martin Luther King was a modern day prophet. He spoke truth. He compared life as it was with what God intended for his people. On May 29, 1966, Dr. King preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Brooklyn. His words that day remained unpublished until recently.

Dr. King chose Luke 4:18-19, Jesus’ first public sermon when he announced both his identity and his mission. Jesus’ message to the church, King said, is to…

  • Minister to the brokenhearted. “A doctor,” King said, “can deal with physical ailments. But the doctor can’t deal with a broken heart.” “The church has the answer to a broken heart. That is a voice saying, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden… and I will give you rest.’”
  • Meet the needs of the poor. “Poverty is tragic experience.” King told them that there is physical poverty and poverty of the spirit. Jesus came to meet the needs of both. Dr. King didn’t condemn the wealthy, but made it clear that the issue is how we use what we have. Memorably he said: “We spend millions of dollars every day to store surplus food… I know where to store that food free of charge – in the wrinkled stomachs of the millions of God’s children in Asia and Africa and South America and in our own nation who go to bed hungry at night.”
  • Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. The year of Lord, King said, comes anytime people decide to do right. When “men will stop lying and cheating… when men learn to live together as brothers… when a nation will allow justice to roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

On Monday, we remember Dr. King. And in 1966 Dr. King reminded us of the words of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach the gospel to the poor, and preach the acceptable year of the Almighty God.”

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