Feast Day of Martin Luther King, Jr. (obs)
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
For online access to the readings click here
I speak to you in the name of One God:
Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit. Amen
Today is the Feast Day of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta.
What do you know about him?
It is hardly possible to summarize his meaningful life in short, bio-clips. God filled him with such grace!
· Son and grandson of Baptist preachers
· Academic preparation: degrees of BA, BD, and PhD in Systematic Theology from Boston University.
· 1954 became pastor of church in Montgomery, AL.
· 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man, King led the Montgomery bus boycott.
· Rallied not only the Black peole but also the consciences of Whites.
· Founded the So. Christian Leadership Conference for non-violent mass demonstrations against racism: Birmingham, Selma and Chicago, which were instrumental to passage of Civil Rights Acts of ’64, ’65, and ’68.
· He lived in constant danger and was jailed 30x.
· One night in 1957 he related that he heard the Lord speaking to him saying, “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice,” and promising to never leave him along, “No, never alone.” This was his “mountaintop experience.”
· After preaching on March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral in Washington, he traveled to Memphis in support of sanitation workers. There he proclaimed that he had been to the mountain-top and seen the Promised Land, and that one day he and his people would be free at last.
· The next day, April 4, he was killed by an assassin.
Perhaps the most powerful way to commemorate MLK is to listen and discuss his “I have a dream” speech. Click here.
Our Gospel today is a portion from Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” which in many ways mirrors Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. In this excerpt, Jesus describes how to treat your enemies. We heard echoes of this from MLK in his sermon:
27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…5But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. …
36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
What radical perspective! What transformative grace!
Think about your own life and who you might consider your “enemies.”
· Is there someone close in your family with whom you have recently had an argument?
· … in your circle of friends with whom you disagree on certain points?
· … in your church (ahem) that “just gets on your last nerve”?
· …someone you have to deal with at your doctor’s office who just seems to push your buttons?
· … someone on TV that irritates you?
· Someone in politics?
· Someone who you only know “about,” like a leader of a country?
See, the definition of “enemy” is someone who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something – or a thing that harms or weakens something else.
If we consider this definition,
it is possible that our “enemy” is our inner self. Perhaps that is the voice that says,
“you can’t do that” or
“who do you think you are?” or
“don’t dream about *that*, it will never come to pass.”
Today’s good news is that even
in the complicated, difficult, stress-filled relationships
with our “enemies” - whether ‘out there’ or ‘in here,’
God’s grace and mercy heals and makes us whole.
Today’s good news is that by being
honest to God about our enemies,
God liberates us and
sets us free of the bondage of hatred.
As Martin Luther King exemplified,
Through love and prayer we can let freedom ring…
And when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, we will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual,
"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"