January 19 - 2004  






"Thirty-five million are homeless or live at the poverty level, and 45 million have no health insurance. There is no justification for poverty in the United States. There is too much wealth here."

Martin Luther King III,
quoted in the
Denver Post


Stop Dreaming, Start Risking

How far have we come since 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered as he stepped out of his room at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis?

King's 75th birthday dawns upon an America beset by many of the same problems. As in 1968, America is in an election year and the key issues on the minds of voters are hauntingly similar: a costly, ideologically driven war in a remote land against an elusive enemy; poverty concentrated in communities denied equal opportunity and income; and human and civil rights.

"Would King, surveying the landscape in 2004, feel he gave his life for nothing?" asks an editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune. "While black per capita income has risen to three-fourths of white income in the suburbs, it is barely half that of whites in cities. Wealth disparities mean it will take decades of closing the income gap before black Americans start with the same economic advantages as whites."

This week's collection of Gleanings is devoted to King and his legacy. Though today King is universally heralded as the apostle of peace that he was, many commentators point out that in his own day he was controversial and widely hated.

King championed civil rights but also spoke out against the Vietnam War and the nation's economic system, both of which he critiqued as exploitive of the nonprivileged for the benefit of the rich and powerful. It was a message that many did not want to hear, but King was silenced neither by denouncement nor threat of death at the hands of evil men, one of whom eventually succeeded in murdering him.

"King is not a legend because he believed in diversity trainings and civic ceremonies," writes Geov Parrish of Workingforchange.com. "He is remembered because he took serious risks and, as the Quakers say, spoke truth to power."

Speaking truth to power has always been the job of God's faithful servants, from Moses to Jeremiah to Hosea to John the Baptist to Martin Luther the Reformer, all the way up to Martin Luther King Jr. And while there are plenty of religious voices heard nowadays, in the field of politics they seem more partisan than prophetic. Big-picture issues that have long been the domain of prophets -- such as God's overriding concern for the poor, the oppressed, the alien and the powerless; God's call for peace, justice, economic justice, compassion and mercy -- are not only marginalized by some of today's most vocal religious voices, they are actually belittled and dismissed by them.

These big-picture issues lie at the heart of Christian discipleship and stewardship of the resources that God has given in abundance for all people of the earth.

The best way to honor King's 75th birthday is not merely to lay a wreath, say a prayer or contemplate his life, but to follow his example of risking and talking truth to power.

I'll give Martin Luther King Jr. the last word:

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal opposition to poverty, racism and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when 'every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.' *


--Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster (webmaster@stewardshipoflife.org)


New Resources This Week: Jan. 19 - 25


 Would I Betray Him?
Life has a way of pushing us to decide whether the pursuit of earthly pleasure and treasure will be more important to us than a non-negotiated love for Christ. The decision comes with a consequence. When forced to make a choice, we discover that a choice for anything instead of Christ inevitably leads us to betray Him." Great insight from Joseph M. Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, from the archives of Moody Magazine.


 No Such Thing As Foolish Generosity
"We are told that we never know when we are entertaining angels unknown to us.Luther says that this is how we are called to live.  But he also points out that often it won't be angels we are entertaining.  He acknowledges that we will get taken frequently if we live the life we are called to." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.



 A Little ... It is Enough  The story of Jesus miraculously feeding the 5,000 is so important, it's the only account shared in all four gospels. It offers many lessons for modern-day stewards. "Are we not to this very day, much like those first followers of Jesus? We are all too fond of committees. We will do an analysis of most any situation and decide what cannot be done. And have good reasons for it." By Kenneth Fink. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.



The Practice of Stewardship:
A Spiritual Discipline in Response to God's Grace

"The practice of stewardship begins with hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament that changes our hearts and wills so that we become the generous children of God." This and other insights from Gary Hedding, Assistant to the Bishop, Northwest Synod of Wisconsin and made available through the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers.



Our Reality Check: The Cross
"So often we get fooled by what we think is 'real.' And in today's digital world, the line between what looks real and what is real is often blurred if not entirely missing."  StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod 


*King's quote is from Where Shall We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), contained in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), page 632.