In his book The Discoverers, former Chief Librarian of the Library of Congress Daniel Boorstin wrote about Galen, a second-century Greek physician and philosopher, whose writings about medicine and physiology were a mainstay of Western healing for more than 1,000 years. Though Galen himself wrote that the medical arts needed to advance and that his own work needed to be abandoned as new discoveries were made, this did not occur, and Galen’s outdated and incorrect principles continued to be utilized centuries later. In the end, Boorstin writes, Galen had “many exegetes, but few disciples.”
That phrase kept running through my head during some excellent preaching yesterday on Martin Luther King, Jr. by Rev. Gregory Sabetta, who introduced me to this remarkable poem by Carl Wendell Hines, Jr., an African-American poet who was in his twenties when Dr. King was assassinated, and when Hines wrote this poem:
Now that he is safely dead,
Let us praise him.
Build monuments to his glory.
Sing Hosannas to his name.
Dead men make such convenient heroes.
For they cannot rise to challenge the images
That we might fashion from their lives.
It is easier to build monuments
Than to build a better world.
So, now that he is safely dead,
We, with eased consciences will
Teach our children that he was a great man,
Knowing that the cause for which he
Lived is still a cause
And the dream for which he died is still
A dead man’s dream.
As it is easier to build monuments than to build a better world, it is far easier to be an exegete than a disciple. In this season and these Sundays of Christ calling disciples, may this day also lead us to be disciples first, who perhaps have included exegesis in the various ways we continue to bring the Gospel to the world.