“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…But…I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But…we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”(1)
Today and every day, I remember Martin’s life of love for the dream of equality for all people.
A love, in obedience to Jesus, even for his enemies.(2)
A love that forged a civil rights movement of nonviolent power and persuasion in which enemies were “killed” with the kindness of an oppressed people standing up as equals.
A love through which lives, metaphorically and literally, were laid down for the sake of friends.(3)
Today and every day, I remember Martin’s legacy of the necessity to labor continually to make the dream of equality for all people a reality.
Today and every day, I, as a Christian, remembering Martin’s life and legacy, particularly of think of the work of the church.
Whatever folk think of the church – what it is, what it isn’t, what it does, what it doesn’t do – for me, it is no memorial society gathering weekly to recall sentimentally the life and labor of some dear, dead, departed leader. The church is a body of people who gather in the Name of a living Jesus in response to his command: “Do this in remembrance of me.”(4)
Remembering his body broken and his blood shed for the sake of saving all people from sin and death…
Remembering that God sent Jesus to be the last sacrifice, the last victim, so that no more sacrificial victims of any class or color, gender or sexual orientation, race or ethnic origin will be crucified on the twin Calvary crosses of phobia and prejudice…
Remembering to stand on the side of the ailing and alienated, the despised and despairing, the helpless and hopeless, the poor and oppressed; all the sacrificial victims of this world’s invincible ignorance of the meaning of the cross that there are to be no more sacrificial victims.
Like Martin, “I would like to live a long life” and, like Martin, “I just want to do God’s will.” To do the latter is the most faithful way for me to remember Martin’s life and legacy today and every day.
Photograph (January 14, 2012): Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, DC
(1) From I See the Promised Land, delivered at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ), April 3, 1968; the evening before Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination.
(2) I have in mind Jesus’ teaching: “I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6.27).
(3) In have in mind Jesus’ teaching: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15.12-14).
(4) On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus: Took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper (Luke 22.19-20a).
8 thoughts on “My Tribute to a King”
Thank you for this reflection of commitment. It is a reminder that Dr. King freely dedicated and gave his life for no lesser cause than to bring the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, which I believe at its heart is, to use your apt description, beneficent love and justice, into the public life of our country and into the hearts and souls of its citizens. As fraught as life in the U.S. is today, it’s that very truth that is still shaking and challenging the false foundations upon which too many of us have too glibly believed our nation was built.
There are those who still ignore or reject the truth of Dr. King’s sacrifice or who underestimate its effects, but the power of his message is, if anything, even stronger and more vital today than it was when he died in 1968. Our struggles today are purely and simply the continuation and progression of his great work and the work of so many extraordinary ordinary people, known and unknown, who carried the ideal of love and justice in their hearts as they lived. He and they are still among us, marching, watching, singing, praying, preaching, accompanying, supporting, most of all loving us into what we as individuals and we as a nation are called to be by our Creator.
With deep gratitude for Dr. King and so many others today, and with great gratitude and affection for those, like you, who keep his work fresh and alive by your constant commitments to the great truth he lived and died for…
With much love,
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Thanks for this Paul. Though I’m a day late I dedicated my presentation yesterday in Harrisonburg to MLK!! It was the perfect day. I too think of his legacy every day, and I’m VERY aware that some of the places I’ve spoken over the last 5 years would never have been possible we’re it not for the blood, sweat and tears of MLK and all the others who worked with him. Lord knows we still have much work to do!
I agree wholeheartedly with Paul’s words to you, that you are a shining example of one who advances the Beloved Community every day of your life by your compelling optimism, your faith in goodness, and your profound commitment to improving the lives of those who suffer from dementia and those who care for and love them. Your energy for doing good in the world seems boundless. Thank you, my sister, for carrying on Dr. King’s dream and his work.
Loretta, it strikes me that you, in your labors, especially for the sake of those of us who suffer the affliction of dementia and for the sake of their caregivers in striving to life their spirits, are carrying on King’s work. And, in this, it also seems to me, you fulfill Karen’s challenging and timely words regarding those “who keep his work fresh and alive by (their) constant commitments to the great truth he lived and died for…” Amen to that.
Karen, as I read and reflect on your words, I, immediately am reminded of that part of the Joseph story when his jealous brothers conspired to do him harm: “Here comes the dreamer. Come now, let us kill him” (Genesis 37.19-20a). (Though did not kill him, but rather sold him into slavery.) This verse oft has been applied in reference and in relation to King. Equally often, as the saying has down to us, a word of valiant defiance is: They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream. This is what your words mean to me. This is what your words remind me to pledge my labors – as futile as I sometimes think they are and as flawed as I always know myself to be – anew to advance the dream; to strive to bring to life what Martin and countless others have brought to light, oft with the cost of their lives.
Thank you, my dearest sisters, in this labor of love for the gospel of love and justice.
As the olden Portuguese saying has it: A luta continua. The struggle continues.
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Thank you so much Paul and Karen!!
Paul I can’t tell you how many days I’ve repeated to myself “They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream”…it’s gotten me through some tough days!!
Karen, Thank you so much! Almost 3 years ago I began to realize that these presentations I’m doing are not just fun and informative – this is without a doubt my calling…. Every now and then someone feels the need to “put me in my place” because I’m African-American. Like a woman who came to an event at a fancy golf resort outside Chicago and left in a huff when she learned I was the speaker after she ordered me to get her a cup of coffee thinking I was the hired help. But I felt so supported as several attendees began to clap as she stormed out and the sponsors of the meeting gave me a hug. But on every other occasion, when talking about dementia, no one cares if you are young or old, or what your ethnicity is, they just want to know the information and they want to feel supported!! So as long as my energy holds out, I’ll be out there!!!
Love y’all both!!
It renders me speechless that someone would feel a need to put anyone “in their place” because of their ethnicity, but it breaks my heart that that happened to you. I would love the chance to say to that woman that Loretta’s place is ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD that Loretta wants to be!!!! And whatever place it is should feel very lucky and honored to have Loretta there!! I’m so glad you were supported by the audience and the sponsors. Indeed you do have a calling, and you fulfill it so beautifully and so faithfully. I want to see you in action someday!
Love and hugs,
Karen, your word in response to your vignette, Loretta, of an encounter with one who overstepped her humanity by trying to tread on your humanity captures my sentiments precisely.
And, Loretta, I so appreciate you and your stalwart attitude and perspective: “…when talking about dementia, no one cares if you are young or old, or what your ethnicity is, they just want to know the information and they want to feel supported!! So as long as my energy holds out, I’ll be out there!!!”
Amen, Karen, and amen, Loretta.
Thank you, Karen. You, in response to your vignette, Loretta, of your encounter with one who overstepped her humanity by treading on your humanity, captures my sentiments precisely. And, Loretta, I so appreciate you and your stalwart attitude and faithful perspective: “…when talking about dementia, no one cares if you are young or old, or what your ethnicity is, they just want to know the information and they want to feel supported!! So as long as my energy holds out, I’ll be out there!!!”
Amen, Karen, and amen, Loretta.