This Sunday at First UU, Reverend James Ishmael Ford delivered a sermon, ‘The Disobedience Sutra’. Taking the root meaning of ‘sutra’ as ‘thread’, he follows the thread from Thoreau, to Gandhi to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., looking upstream to the source of conscience…
There is still more following of that thread. Influenced directly by both Thoreau and Gandhi, and again through Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., tells us “there is within human nature something that can respond to goodness.” It is the same intuition articulated in Thoreau’s essay, enriched by the wisdom of India’s peaceful revolution, by seeing conscience as truth force.
I believe Martin Luther King gets us very close to the headwaters. He takes us up the thread very close to the knot. And he brings home to us the power of Civil Disobedience, the Disobedience Sutra. King refocuses on the power of the truth force within us, of our intimate knowing of the preciousness of the individual. And, a little of why. There’s that lovely image of a cloak of mutuality, which covers us all, that binds us all together as one. King, somehow it feels better to say Martin, Martin sings to us of love and conscience as the manifestation of love, of our deepest intimacy with ourselves, each other, and the whole blessed mess. Out of that great insight he articulated three principles “We must meet hate with love. We must meet physical force with soul force (And, throughout the struggle for justice)…we must follow nonviolence and love….” as one thing. This is the way of the wise heart.
It’s a good thing maybe, that we remember the nobility, the gift that Dr.King gave to us, and forget the hate, the names, the critics left and right that he faced. Dr. King’s work lives on, the thread was not severed with his premature death. It leads to citizens facing the cold, putting their time, energy and safety on the line to Occupy our conscience.