Telling the Stories that Matter: May 11 – Christopher, Martyr, Christ Bearer, Seeker of Something Worth Believing

Reprebus was a big man. He was a strong and very capable warrior at the service of the king of Canaan. He had no relation to or even understanding of the Christian faith and it wasn’t expected of him that he would have any interest in it if he was told of it. He was good at what he did–the bidding of those he served–and nearly all of the people must have known he lived a fairly comfortable life. But Reprebus had a strong desire to devote his life to something or someone greater than the ruler he served. He thought on his predicament for some time until he finally decided to seek out the greatest ruler in the world and become a servant to this great ruler. With his great strength and determination he knew that he could become a powerful and influential servant of any ruler and knew that serving the greatest of rulers meant that he would become the greatest of the ruler’s men.So, he left the king of Canaan and sought out the ruler most widely regarded as a king above all other kings and pledged his allegiance to this man.

Reprebus’ life was fairly comfortable in service to this new king–his new master–but it would not remain that way. One day while he was guarding his new king he happened to overhear the king in conversation with another man. The other man spoke of someone he called “the devil” and in response Reprebus’ king made a gesture of crossing in the air as if to ward off the presence of this “devil.” Reprebus knew what this meant that the man he served hoped to ward off another who was spoken of in hushed tones: it meant that there was somebody that even this great king feared. So, Reprebus committed himself to finding this one known as “the devil” so that he might serve him. What he found, though, was a band of marauding bandits led by a man who claimed to be the same devil that Reprebus was pursuing. Reprebus fell in with the bandits and became a man to be feared on the highways and byways of the Roman empire. He hurt many people in service to the devil that even the great king had feared but witnessed another disturbing turn of events when the devil he served balked at trampling upon a cross that had been left beside a road. Instead, the devil veered widely around it and demonstrated his own fear.Again, Reprebus knew that this meant there was another who was greater and so he went looking for someone who could tell him the meaning of this cross.

What Reprebus found out was that the cross was a symbol of the Lord of the Christians: Jesus Christ. He sought out a local teacher who could tell him how to follow Jesus since he had learned from the Christians that Jesus had died, been raised from the dead, and ascended again into the heavens. The teacher was a hermit who, when Reprebus asked him how he might follow Jesus, taught Reprebus to fast and pray and seek the will of God. Reprebus didn’t know how and was unaccustomed to such physical and spiritual disciplines. So, instead, the hermit found another discipline for Reprebus to practice. Noting Reprebus’ great strength and stature he told him to go down to the raging river nearby where people routinely lost their lives trying to cross it. When he got there, his job was to help people cross safely. With a walking stick in hand, Christopher began carrying people across the river to safety. He was thanked profusely but he always insisted that it was his calling to be there and that he would not accept but the most meager and necessary of gifts. He was, after all, serving the King of all Kings and could find no reason to want anything else.

One day, after helping many travelers cross the river a little boy came to the bank of the river and looked across it to the other side. Reprebus had helped children cross before and it was always an easy task because of their small size. When the boy asked to be carried over, Reprebus gladly obliged and picked up the child to put him on his shoulders. As he started to take a step he suddenly felt as if the child was the heaviest burden he had ever carried. He nearly stumbled but instead he took one slow and plodding step. He understood himself to be serving God almighty through helping people across the river and so he was unwilling to refuse assistance to anybody. So, he took another laborious and difficult step across the river with the boy on his shoulders. “Even if the boy was made of pure lead he couldn’t be this heavy,” reasoned Reprebus to himself. When he finally, after quite some time, let the boy down to the ground on the other side he was exhausted. Drinking deeply from the river he exclaimed to the boy: “That was far harder than I ever imagined…it was like carrying the whole world upon my shoulders.”

The boy responded, simply, You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work.” Having said this, the boy vanished from before Reprebus’ eyes. From then on he took another name: Christopher. After all, Christopher means “Christ bearer.” Having been confirmed in his faith, Christopher traveled to the city of Lycia to comfort two other Christians who suffered under heavy burdens: two who were being martyred. By showing up and visiting them, though, he was targeted for interrogation himself.Soon, he was arrested and accused of being a Christian. This was a charge he could not and did not deny. The ruler of the city hoped to woo him to his side by offering him money, power, and women if he would deny his faith and become the king’s servant. What the king didn’t know, though, was that Christopher had finally found something worth believing and would not be convinced to accept anything less. He converted the two beautiful women the king sent to seduce him as he had converted many of those whom he had helped to cross the river when they found out why he was exercising such charity at risk to his own life. For the offense of refusing a lesser king’s request and for converting the two women he was put to death and made a martyr.

from Blogger http://ift.tt/2qvk2If

Telling the Stories that Matter: May 7 – John of Zedazeni and Disciples, Monastics, Ascetics, Missionaries

John of Zedazeni committed himself to the monastic calling from a young age. In fact, he was still a youth when he received the traditional marks of his monasticism and withdrew to the wilderness to pursue God without distraction. His religious education had been extensive but it was far less important in the wilderness than his own moral commitments and his intentional disciplines and asceticism. John was well known as a man who refused distraction but was often the recipient of visitors in the wilderness because God had gifted him with the power to heal disease and cast out demons. Crowds sought him out seeking healing and exorcism but also seeking the opportunity to follow his words and teachings. After only a little time in the wilderness he had many disciples who were following his every teaching and depending upon him for spiritual guidance and direction. He did not seek this kind of influence but it was given to him by virtue of his grand calling and particular spiritual gifts. John’s desire, however, was to retire even further into the wilderness and take up more ascetic and more isolated disciplines. He was willing to teach and lead but he found that it was becoming increasingly easy to become distracted by the wonders God was working through him.

So, John took some of his disciples–very close ones–and retired deeper into the wilderness. The others were left behind to continue growing in their devotion to Jesus under different leadership and direction. He built a monastery with the help of his disciples deeper in the wilderness and it was built exactly to his specifications. Each of the men present in the monastery had a cell that was barely large enough for their bed roll. They planted a garden and worked while they continued to draw closer to their God in seclusion. All of this changed, though, when God gave John a vision, a message, and a calling. In the vision he was called away to the country we call Georgia. He was told the story of Nino and told to go, serve, and teach the peoples of this foreign land. He was instructed to take with him twelve–and only twelve–of his disciples. Each and every one of John’s disciples were willing to follow John wherever God had called him and so John only had to pick with God’s guidance. He picked Abibus of Nekresi, Anthony of Martqopi, David of Gareji, Zenon of Iqalto, Thaddeus of Stepantsminda, Jesse of Tsilkani, Joseph of Alaverdi, Isidore of Samtavisi, Michael of Ulumbo, Pyrrhus of Breti, Stephen of Khirsa, and Shio of Mgvime. These thirteen men moved to the Zedazeni mountains and established another monastery in the remains of a pagan temple.

John and his disciples continued the labor and prayer that they had started in the Syrian wilderness but now they did it in Georgia. It was only a little while until the Christians of Georgia–those who had a legacy including Nino–began to flock to John’s monastery and receive instruction at his feet and at the feet of his disciples. Having established a monastic foothold in Georgia, they worked together to build each other up in their faith and devotion. The Zedazeni mountains even became a spiritual hot spot to which people would make pilgrimage. One night, John received another vision in which he was instructed to send his twelve disciples in different directions to infiltrate Georgian life and establish yet more monasteries. These twelve disciples who had long been under the tutelage and direction of John had become masters of the monastic path in their own right and now they were ready to have an astounding impact upon the people who were willing and eager to hear what they had to say. They departed soon thereafter and began establishing small monasteries and centers of spiritual formation throughout the Georgian landscape. John remained in the small Zedazeni monastery alone for some time before moving into a nearby cave. The twelve disciples of John changed the way of life in Georgia and converted many to a life of faith and trust in Jesus.

Many years later, John sent out word to his disciples that he was close to death. They returned from their monasteries and churches to attend to their teacher and director in his dying days. They found that for many years he had been living in a cave and subsisting on vegetables and prayer. He broke bread with his disciples and shared one last conversation. He asked them to bury him in the cave that had become such an integral part of his calling and then he died while gazing into the heavens receiving yet another vision. This time it was the open arms of the God he loved and served and had found in Syria and in Georgia. The God who had called him to lead, teach, and pray now welcomed him into eternal rest from his many labors.

from Blogger http://ift.tt/2pnlAQu

Telling the Stories that Matter: April 29 – Catherine of Siena, Mystic, Monastic, Betrothed to Christ


The boy was talking very fast and trying his hardest to impress his six-year-old sister Catherine. He knew it was his job and duty to not only take care of her but to entertain her as they walked back from the home of their older and married sister. Catherine was the youngest of twenty-five children since her twin had died shortly after birth and was a treasure to the family. So, he joked with her and told her stories so that the journey home might be a little easier on her. When he turned to see why she wasn’t responding to his best jokes and funniest voices, he noticed that she was no longer walking beside him. Like a good brother, he was instantly terrified that he had lost his youngest sister. He began to look around frantically while yelling at himself for his negligence and carelessness. He was gripped by that horrible combination of certainty that she must be nearby and confidence that an awful mistake has been made that will exact a terrible cost. When he didn’t see her in the immediate area he began to sprint back on the path they had been traveling. He finally found her standing in the middle of the road and staring up into the sky with tears streaming down her face.

He knew that those tears–probably tears of fear at being lost, he suspected–would purchase his punishment with their father and so he began to think of a way to dry them up along with any story Catherine might be tempted to tell before they got home again. He called her name sweetly but she didn’t adjust her gaze away from the blank spot on which it was focused. He became frightened and called out to her louder and more harshly yet she still mouthed silent words with her eyes focused on some invisible subject. When he grasped her hand, she suddenly gasped and seemed ripped back into the world she shared with her family and the rest of humanity. Six-year-old Catherine began speaking of seeing the throne of Heaven with Jesus seated upon it. Around him were Peter, Paul, and John and they joined together with others in worship. The little girl who was nicknamed “Joy” by her family had been overwhelmed by the joy that radiated from the communion and unity of that glorious scene. Even telling it to her brother had an infectious nature and when they got home her family found this to be a miraculous vision of things unseen. This little girl would commit then and there to a life of devotion to the one who had inspired such joy and peace by his mere presence. She would go on to become a leader in the Dominican monastic movement among the devoted laity. Her appointment was not without controversy but it is undeniable that she was called to and suited for this position of service.

When she grew older she was pushed toward marriage by her family. They had raised her in the Faith that they professed alongside her but it seems that Catherine’s childhood vision had faded in their minds over the years while it still burned white hot in her own. When they began to speak of marriage and betrothal, she took a shocking action and cut her long, beautiful, golden-brown hair to a strikingly short length. She was punished for this act and forced to do menial tasks around the home and denied the solitude and silence she craved so eagerly.Yet, it was through this punishment that she learned to find solitude within herself–deserts that could not be denied to her and always held the promise of the presence of God. Eventually, she had another vision wherein she was brought up to heaven by Jesus himself. Once there, she was betrothed to Jesus. He slipped a ring upon her finger to seal her as his and she was taken back to the world she knew and shared with her family. From that day onward she said she could always see the band upon her finger even as others claimed that nothing was there.

Catherine answered a calling to devote herself to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In doing so she became an advocate of reformation within the Church that called clergy and leaders to hold themselves to a high standard even as they called others to join with them in this standard of excellence and service. She would write numerous letters and treatises on the mystical life of communion with Jesus and the way of love that she knew as the way of her Faith. She cared for the sick and the plague-stricken with her own hands and walked with many weeping and mourning families as they escorted their loved ones to the grave. The little girl who had been inspired by a vision of joy and communion spent her life on others in a way that brought this joy and communion a step closer in her own world.

from Blogger http://ift.tt/2qpJ0oj

Telling the Stories that Matter: April 23 – George of Nicomedia, Martyr, Beloved of Diocletian, Hero

Geronzio had been a servant of Diocletian before Diocletian had risen to the status and rank of emperor in Rome. He had served Diocletian loyally and had gained his respect and admiration. He was, however, a Christian and though Diocletian knew this he did not expect Geronzio to change his allegiance as long as Geronzio did not openly betray him. Geronzio was also married to a woman named Policronia. The two of them had used their connections and influence to elevate themselves to a noble status and to shore up possessions and wealth. They used this wealth and status to provide comfort and aid to their brothers and sisters in the Faith and to prepare their newborn son–whom they named George, meaning “worker of the land”–for his life and whatever it might hold. As George grew in age and education he also grew into the faith of his parents and his many new brothers and sisters that came to his family’s home for services of worship and communion.Tragically, Geronzio died when George was fourteen and within three years Policronia had taken that fateful step beyond mortality and into life more ideal and true. George was among many who were like family to him and he was the inheritor of his family’s considerable wealth but he was without direction and no longer had his father as his mentor. So, George went to the man who had so loved and favored his father: Diocletian.

George became a soldier under Dicoletian’s watchful care and guidance. Diocletian was heartbroken when he heard of Geronzio’s death but was overjoyed at the prospect of guiding George’s career and continued service to Rome. He was aware that George was a Christian but underestimated George’s allegiance to his faith. Eventually, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and set upon a career that would likely end up with him in a powerful political position within the Roman empire. Further, he served as one of the Emperor’s personal guards and soldiers–living into Geronzio’s favor with Diocletian. While in this position he had many opportunities to use his wealth and influence to better the lives of those with whom he came into contact. At one point he arrived in a village of non-Christians who had taken to a bloodthirsty ritual of human sacrifice. They would cast lots and the young woman who was indicated by the lots would be sacrificed to appease the dark god they feared. When George arrived he was stricken at the ruthlessness of such a ritual and stopped them in the midst of their ceremony of slaughter. He spoke at length with not only the leaders but the assembled crowds and told a story of a God who did not demand blood and death but had, instead, given blood and died so that we might be forgiven. At his words, their hearts turned and they abandoned their ways of death and many came within the fold of the Christian faith. They gave over their allegiance to a slaughtered and risen Lord and gave up faith and hope in slaughter and domination. For this he was labeled a hero because he had slain the dark beast that dwelt within them and brought them into the way of life more abundant and free.

Tragically for both George and Diocletian, Diocletian began to be swayed by Galerius and his own fear of a loss in power. Having heard so many lies about the Christians, Diocletian issued a command throughout the army. All soldiers were to give a sacrifice to the roman gods and values to demonstrate their allegiance and deny any faith in the Christian God. Those who refused were to be executed as Christians and traitors to the Roman army. Diocletian was stuck deciding between his beloved friend George whom he knew as a Christian and the power he hoped to consolidate with this bloody edict. He begged George to renounce his faith and offered him great gifts of land, money, and slaves if he would give his greatest allegiance to Diocletian and Rome. George refused and still Diocletian begged. Diocletian still offered him his most persuasive gifts but George did the incredible by giving away all that he already owned to the poor and to the Church that he had served so eagerly and willingly. He was tortured and finally he was beheaded so that Rome might make a statement about power. Eventually, George was turned over to the executioners with many other Christians for torture and death.However, Rome and Diocletian also made an unintentional statement about the faith of the Christians of whom they made martyrs. George died in good company and died so that others might know there was more to death than a grave and more to life than comfort.

from Blogger http://ift.tt/2ohTNVk

Telling the Stories that Matter: April 18 – Apollonius of Rome, Martyr, Apologist, Not Afraid to Die


Apollonius had spent years in study and was strikingly familiar with the major philosophers and schools of thought in the second century Roman empire. He had converted to Christianity because of the witness and testimonies of the early Church members but had continued to study the beliefs and convictions of those he had left behind and hoped to bring to faith with himself. He was a Roman senator and knew that his power brought a modicum of protection with it. He knew that there was a law against being a Christian but he knew two other things, as well: 1) the Roman rulers would not simply betray him without cause, and 2) he was called to share the grace and love that he had freely received. Eventually, one of his slaves betrayed him as a Christian to a praetorian prefect by the name of Perennis. It’s likely that Perennis and others knew but they were turning a blind eye to Apollonius’ faith because they had no desire to enforce the law upon their friend and respected colleague–they were comfortable enforcing the law upon “the little people” who didn’t matter but feared what might happen if the laws were enforced fairly and equitably. So, Perennis had Apollonius arrested so that he might come to trial. He also had the slave’s legs crushed as punishment for forcing the hand of the Empire.

As Perennis brought Apollonius to his trials he pleaded with him to renounce his faith–even if he “didn’t mean it”–because those in power were all too willing to find him not guilty of the crime. He reminded Apollonius that the punishment for being a Christian was death and insisted that the right course of action for a senator like Apollonius was to renounce his faith and maintain his influence and power in the world. When Apollonius refused to apostatize before the court he was given over to the senate of which he was a member to be tried by his peers and–hopefully–dissuaded from his faith. This was the moment that Apollonius had been counting on and so he shared his faith with the whole senate. He knew they would give him a charitable ear because of their respect for him and that his arguments–well crafted by many years of education and the passion he now felt for life and truth because of his faith–would be heard without interruption. He ended his great testimony by praying, “O Lord Jesus Christ, give us a bit of your spirit so that we might be helped to obey your teachings to: make peace over anger, join in pity with others and for others, temper our desires, always increase in love, put away our sorrow, cast aside our foolish pride, not love vengeance, and not fear death. Help us to trust our spirit to God the Father who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit now and forever.” Perennis couldn’t understand why Apollonius wasn’t taking the easy and reasonable way out of death and yelled at him, “Are you determined to die today?”

Apollonius responded, “Oh no.” He continued, “I very much enjoy life but my love of life does not make me afraid to lose it. There’s something better waiting for me: eternal life! There is something better given to the person who has lived well on earth.” He admonished the listening crowd to cast aside their pride and self-obsession but they were unwilling to pay the price of faith. He was convicted for his crime not because the senate was willing to convict one of its own but because he was unwilling even to pretend not to trust God. For his crime his legs were crushed and he was decapitated. He died a martyr who had been given a rare chance to preach the Gospel to his executioners.

from Blogger http://ift.tt/2op7v3B

Telling the Stories that Matter: April 10 – Gregory V of Constantinople, Martyr, Patriarch, Archbishop


Georgios Aggelopoulos was born to a poor family in Dimitsana, Greece, in the year 1746. Like so many of his contemporaries, he seemed destined for a fairly forgettable life comprised mostly of hard work, limited rewards, and devotion to the Church–this ended up being true but not quite in the way that we might expect. Georgios received a decent education but his own natural talents and aptitudes propelled him forward so that he was able to study in Athens for two years. His uncle was an influential man in Smyrna, however, and arranged for Georgios to receive a high quality education there not because of any ability to pay but rather because of his surprising intellect and in spite of his many obstacles. Georgios’ family expected that he would go on to a career in academic circles and this would have been a surprising career for one of his background. Yet, it was his commitment to the Church and monastic spirituality that would hold most strongly when presented with other callings. Georgios became a monk and took the name of Gregory. As a monk he finished his education before becoming first a deacon and eventually an archdeacon in the Church in Smyrna.

At the time, the metropolitan of Smyrna was a man named Prokopios and under his guidance, Gregory was ordained a priest and designated the aid of the bishop. In 1785, Prokopios was selected to become the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This meant moving to Turkey and being an Eastern Christian leader in the heart of the Ottoman empire. The Ecumenical Patriarch was a representative not only of Christianity but also of the Greek people. However, when Prokopios was elected patriarch, Gregory was ordained as a bishop and installed as the Metropolitan of Smyrna. By all accounts, he was an able and gifted metropolitan who seemed intimately concerned with the pastoral care of the people in Smyrna. It comes as no surprise then that he was the successor of Prokopios as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 1797. In many ways, this was a drastic change. He left behind Greece for the heart of the Ottoman empire and with his departure lost many of his securities and protections. As the patriarch, he was forced to deal with Turkish leadership that resented not only him but all of the people he represented. Approximately one year later, Gregory was deposed from his position by the Muslim leaders of Turkey and banished from Turkey. He took up residence at a monastery on Mount Athos and devoted himself to study and prayer. In 1806, after a change in politics by the Turkish leadership, he was once again appointed Ecumenical Patriarch. His second appointment lasted approximately four years before he was once again deposed and deported.

It was in January of 1819 that he returned to Constantinople for the third and final time. As the Christian leadership of a resented Christian population, he continued to anger the Ottoman leadership. In March of 1821, Greek citizens began to violently resist Ottoman domination of Greece and blood was spilled by both sides. Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II demanded that Gregory suppress the Greek violence against Turks in Greece. Gregory did what he could to make for peace but it did not come. As the Ecumenical Patriarch and the ethnarch of Greeks in Ottoman Turkey, he was held responsible for the violence and the uprisings that would later be known as the beginning of the Greek revolution. Shortly after worship ended on Easter Sunday in the year 1821, Ottoman soldiers arrested Gregory from within the sanctuary of the church where he had just celebrated Easter. He was dragged to the edge of the city in his clerical vestments and hung from the gate in retribution for the acts perpetrated by the revolutionaries against the Ottoman authorities. His body hung there for three days as an example before being drug through the streets and being cast into the Bosphorous. His body was recovered by a sailor and given a Christian burial. In his memory, the main gates of the Patriarchate compound were welded shut in 1821 and have remained so since then.

from Blogger http://ift.tt/2oXScQS

Telling the Stories that Matter: April 4 – Martin Luther King, Jr., Martyr, Preacher, Dreamer

The audience in Mason Temple was justifiably enraptured as Martin Luther King, Jr., preached yet another gripping and inspiring sermon. As he moved to conclude the sermon his mind–and the minds of the audience–were drawn once again to the weapons and bombs that were threatened and used against them.Martin’s flight to Memphis for this cause had been delayed by yet another bomb threat.He concluded the sermon, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.” As the imagery settled, he continued: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.” This would prove to be a dark foreshadowing of the limited time left on earth for Martin. He finished“And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”With these words, Martin ended his sermon and went back to room 306–a room he had stayed in often–at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

Martin led countless individuals in the struggle for civil rights in the United State of America. He was one of the founders of the influential Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and gave direction to people looking for a way to resist the powerful and abusive parts of the American power structure. They marched and met and slowly raised the consciousness of the American people in relation to the struggle that they were undergoing simply for equality and justice. One of the foundational tenets of Martin’s leadership was the philosophy of nonviolence. This philosophy led to many sit-ins and passive forms of resistance which proved to be especially powerful in a nation where media were looking for a story. He drew the inspiration for how he might best resist nonviolently from Jesus, Gandhi, and the writings of Howard Thurman. With each nonviolent protest, they were met with violent opposition from those who hated their very existence. They absorbed the wrath and evil intentions of their enemies and offered them something resembling love and forgiveness in return. As the violence escalated, Martin and those who followed after him suffered even more. But the power was found in the increased awareness of the rightness of their side and the wrongness of their enemies as their enemies perpetrated great evil in an attempt to remain powerful. In other words, the nonviolent protest of Martin and his people provided a canvas upon which the inherent, institutional evil could take form and be recognized. With every blow and wound they received they gave witness to the evil that motivated such injustice.

Martin was a preacher and recognized the power of the spoken word both to inspire and provoke. It seems that at every stop he would be in a church preaching to a capacity crowd about the inherent spirituality of what was going on. The civil rights campaign was not his only cause. After much reflection his nonviolence extended into his political life and he became a leader in the cause to end the Vietnam war. This did not gain him any popularity among the powerful–many of whom he had already offended–but it did help to ease his own conscience as he considered what his faith and calling demanded of him. He preached and he taught and in so doing he excited the joy of his audience and the antipathies of his opponents. So many of them were regular members and attenders of a church but saw no problem with the injustice and evil that they supported. Martin’s preaching demanded awareness from those that supported him and those that resisted him. He didn’t just help reform American political attitudes. He began the process of reforming the Church in America and around the world.

At 6:00 p.m. in the evening of the fourth day of April–in the year 1968–Martin prepared to leave room 306 and go to another church to preach another sermon in support of the sanitation workers in Memphis. By doing this, he was further living into his conviction: “true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar….it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” As he stepped out the door he turned to the musician who was with him–Ben Branch–and said: “Ben, make sure you play Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.” At 6:01, a shot rang out and a bullet entered Martin’s head and settled in his spinal column. The man who had received the Nobel Peace Prize for working through nonviolence and civil disobedience to end racial injustice was gunned down in Memphis on his way to preach a sermon commanding love for enemies. He died a martyr and was buried shortly thereafter in a funeral that was widely attended. According to his wishes, nobody talked about his many awards or degrees but, rather, his wife chose to play a recording of a recent sermon in which he said he’d rather be known for being a man who tried to “feed the hungry”, “clothe the naked”, “be right on the war question”, and “love and serve humanity.” As the preacher got one more chance to preach–an honor he would have indubitably enjoyed–Mahalia Jackson sang Take My HandPrecious Lord and a nation laid to rest a martyr and prophet.April 4 – Martin Luther King, Jr., Martyr, Preacher, Dreamer

from Blogger http://ift.tt/2oxTXac