“What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?” Romans 8:31, NRSV

One of the most powerful orations in America’s history was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon, delivered on the eve of his assassination, April 3, 1968, at Mason Temple in Memphis, TN.  Dr. King closed that prophetic message by declaring, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead.”  He was no doubt reflecting on the bourgeoning tide of social, political and moral challenges facing America, and his movement for human rights; and on the steady influx of threats against his life and against others in the Civil Rights Movement.

King’s audience could hear and see in his voice and in his countenance that he was pondering complex issues at a very high level, while bracing himself spiritually, psychologically and emotionally for what might happen next.  Then in an unexpected change in chord, he followed the above sentence with these words, “But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”  Later he added, “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!”

I see a parallel between King’s words and St. Paul’s words in Romans 8 in this regard, both were commenting on the perennial tension between life and death, spirit and flesh, and good and evil.  Both were operating from a God-inspired world view that God’s spirit empowers us to rise above the forces that militate against life and wholeness, such as slavery and fear, and injustice and discrimination.  Both embodied a faith stance that God has a vision of beloved community wherein we conduct ourselves as joint heirs—children of God pursuing a full life on equal terms within one another. 

The life of the Spirit involves constantly navigating the treacherous waters whereupon life is found at times and lost at times.  We must all hold onto our faith through constant nurture and renewal with a devotional life and sabbath time which remind us that God is not a figment of our imagination.  God is alive, purposeful, and in control even though we can’t comprehend what all that means. At times, we must concede with Dr. King that we as a people will get to the promised future no matter what the present brings our way.  At other times, we must assure ourselves with St. Paul’s manifesto that God is for us no matter the forces that may confront us.