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"The Seeking God"

Author: 
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Genre: 
Sermon
Topic: 
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry

Details

Referring to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, King declares God's active concern and love for every individual: “Every man from a [bass] black to a treble white is significant on God’s keyboard.”1

Based on the parable of the Lost Sheep
Luke 15:1-7

Introduction—There is a desperate question on the lips of every individual. It is a poinant insistent question. In no life can the question be finally dismissed. The question is simply this—What is God like? “The Power that rolls the planets on their course and draws the line of death across our human days—Who is He?” “Our dearest faith, our ghastliest doubt”—What is he like.2 The majestic Power that is the heartbeat of the cosmos—Who is he. This is the desperate, stinging, poignant question flowing from the lips of every man

Jesus answered the question. He [answered?] it in terms that every man of his generation could understand. “God,” he says, “is like a Good Shepherd.”3 Indeed he is the Cosmic Shepard that lead us into this pasture of mortal life. He knows that folly by which we wander. He seeks us through pain and peril. And finally he leads us through the Valley of the Shadow, His lifted rod our guide.4 This aspect of God’s nature is set forth so beautifully in the parable of the lost Sheep.

{Another introduction can be “where is God.” as Carlyle said “God sits in Heaven and does nothing}5

The basic message of this parable is set forth in three points.6

  1. It emphasizes mans tragic tendency to become lost the tragedy of being lost. There is nothing more tragic than to see a person who has wandered so far from the fold of his destiny that he ends up in the maze of present circumstances ends up with a complete loss of a sense of direction.

    1. Now notice that this sheep was not lost by deliberate choice.7 There is nothing in the parable to indicate that the sheep consciously strayed away from the fold. He was probably just nibbling sweet grass. Like the sheep, men follow the lure of the moment—this transitory thrill of pleasure, that passing enrichment—until at last they reach the deep darkness of a lost night.8

      {As a counselor of people I have come to see that most personal problem do not grow out of a deliberate choice

      1. The alcoholic starts as a social drinker—Yale Report.9

      2. Dope addiction starts in the quest for a new experience

      3. Marriage infidelity starts in the enjoyment of being flattered}10

    2. Now what does being lost really mean. It means [strikeout illegible] being on the wrong road.

  2. The second basic point brought out in this parable is that God is unwearily persistent in seeking the lost. Indeed this is the crux of the parable. It only deals with the lostness of man in order to reveal the amazing propotions of God’s seeking love.

    1. We tend to think that the seach is on man’s part, but it is the other way around. Prayer, for instance, is really man response to God.

    2. Aristotle’s God11

    3. God is not an absentees God. He is not the God that sits in his heaven and does nothing. Throughout the Bible, from the beginning of the O.T. to the end of the New, we find God trudging [thru?] the hedges and highways of history seeking to find to lost12

  1. Finally, this parable teaches the endless preciousness of the individual to God. “There is joy in heaven over one sinner13

    1. There is so much in our modern life to refute this principle

      1. men and women [hovered?] up in big cities & big industrial areas

      2. Communism as a threat to individualism

      3. Out of this emphasis of the worth of the ind grew democracy

    2. The Christian gospel is committed, once and for all, to the worth of the individual. By his cross, Christ has bound all men into an inextricably bond of brotherhood, and stamped on all men the indelible imprint of preciousness.

    3. All men are significant. The one lost is as significant as the ninety and nine. Every man from a base black to a treble white is significant on God’s keyboard.14 The important thing about a man is not his specificity, but his fundamentum.

In the final analysis this parable tells us that there is somebody in the universe who cares. This is what the hymn writer meant when he said; Jesus cares15

1. This sermon was King’s announced topic for this date (Ebenezer Baptist Church, Press release, “‘The Seeking God’ King Jr.’s Topic at Ebenezer,” 1 October 1960).

2. Buttrick, The Parables of Jesus, p. 179: “‘What is God like?’ … the Power Who rolls the planets on their course and draws the line of death across our human days—Who is He? ‘Our dearest faith, our ghastliest doubt’—what is He like?”

3. Cf. John 10:11, 14.

4. Cf. Psalm 23:4, Buttrick, The Parables of Jesus, p. 179: “He is like a shepherd! He led us into this pasture of mortal life. He knows the folly by which we wander, drawn by this pleasant tuft and that lush watercourse, until the night is on us and the mountains rise like walls of rock. He seeks us through pain and peril. He will lead us at the last through the Valley of the Shadow, His lifted rod our guide!”

5. Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, p. 163; King inserted this reference to Thomas Carlyle in a second pen.

6. Buttrick, The Parables of Jesus, p. 180: “The message of the story—this avowal of God’s love—is concentrated in three of its words.” Buttrick explored the significance of the following words: “lost,” “seeking,” and “until” (The Parables of Jesus, pp. 180-181).

7. Buttrick, The Parables of Jesus, p. 180: “Sometimes they are lost like sheep, not from viciousness or deliberate choice but from weak will and heedlessness.”

8. Buttrick, The Parables of Jesus, p. 180: “Like sheep, men follow the zest of the moment—this transitory thrill of pleasure, that passing enrichment—until they reach darkness and the brink of the precipice!”

9. King may be referring to information from a 1959 Yale University conference on alcoholism (Program, “Ministers’ conference on the problems of alcohol,” 18 October-20 October 1959).

10. King added these bracketed lines in a second pen.

11. King’s subject index file contained a notecard in which he cited “Knudson, DOG, 298” below the title “Aristotle’s God” (King, Notecards on Aristotle, U.S. policy on Asia, Atheism, and Augustine, 1951-1955). Albert C. Knudson argued that Aristotle’s God was not a personal god: “He is a shining ideal which attracts the world, and in this sense the world loves him, but he does not love the world. He stands aloof from it. There is no reciprocal intercourse between him and men” (Knudson, The Doctrine of God [New York: Abingdon Press, 1930], pp. 281, 298).

12. Cf. Luke 14:23.

13. Luke 15:7; King added this sentence in a second pen.

14. In a 1955 published sermon Robert J. McCracken remarked, “Aggrey, that great Negro Christian, said: ‘You can play some sort of tune on the white keys of a piano; you can play some sort of tune on the black keys of a piano; but to produce real harmony you must play both the black and white keys’” (McCracken, “Discrimination—The Shame of Sunday Morning,” The Pulpit [February, 1955]: 6). James E. Kwegyir Aggrey, born in Gold Coast, became an AME Zion Church minister and theologian after migrating to the United States in 1898.

15. King added the last two sentences in a second pen. He may be referring to Frank E. Graeff's 1901 hymn “Does Jesus Care?”: “Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares, / His heart is touched with my grief; / When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, / I know my Saviour cares.”

Source: 

CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 51, "The Seeking God (Parable of Lost Sheep)."