Yesterday our congregation honored the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in part, by affirming Rev. King’s call as a follower of Jesus. His words rang out as his speech was read and the Gospel proclaimed. The Christian call, a call to justice, requires firmaments of hope and faith focused on the Light of God’s ever present love.
More than the oppression that burdened him, Rev. King’s passion for justice burned from the witness of Jesus and a discerning ear that listened for the voice of God’s revelation to ground him. He said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing”. His deep connection to God inspired his actions and his words and what became a legacy.
Sister Joan Chittister has been moved by that legacy. She asserts that in Rev. King we see a glimpse of the face of God. In times of adversity, we look to those who can lead us out of darkness into the light. Sister Joan writes, “In their eyes burn the eyes of a God who sees injustice and decries it, sees poverty and condemns it, sees inequality and refuses it, sees wrong and demands that it be set right. These are people for whom the Law above the law is first in their lives. These are people who did not temporize with the evil in one system just because another system could have been worse. These are people who saw themselves clearly as the others' keepers. They are the people who gave themselves entirely to the impulses of God for the sake of the world.”
Rev. King eloquently imparted his dream, his vision for a promised land. He prayerfully conveyed the words and images that inspired a movement. He spoke not only in articulated principles, but with the acknowledgement of the hard work that was necessary to realize them. He knew that the dream alone is not enough. It requires our participation. It requires many of us to bear witness to it. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
I believe that Rev. King would have been inspired by President Obama. I like to think that he would have been deeply moved, as I was, when the President bore witness to the call for peace and civility at the Memorial Service in Tucson. We HAVE come a long way.
“And so we still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom. Yes, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt, and we have crossed a Red Sea that had for years been hardened by a long and piercing winter of massive resistance, but before we reach the majestic shores of the promised land, there will still be gigantic mountains of opposition ahead and prodigious hilltops of injustice. We still need some Paul Revere of conscience to alert every hamlet and every village of America that revolution is still at hand. Yes, we need a chart; we need a compass; indeed, we need some North Star to guide us into a future shrouded with impenetrable uncertainties.”
Today we pause to remember what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ’s legacy means for us, in this time, in this moment of history. As I listen to all of the political rhetoric infusing our airwaves, progressive rhetoric, conservative rhetoric, outrageous, hostile and crazy rhetoric, I keep thinking do people really believe that we can live into the American dream, that we can solve our problems of poverty and war and education and healthcare by making enemies of one another. Do we think we further our progress and evolution by projecting our frustrations and fears onto others?
I think our biggest challenge is not the tea partiers, the conservatives or the progressives. The biggest challenge is in thinking that someone else is going to solve our problems. As long as we sit on the sidelines and complain about our President or minimize the concerns of those who are different from ourselves, then we have no right to demand that anything be different. If we refuse to muster that Paul Revere of conscience, then all we have is dream. To live into the dream, Rev. King’s dream, the American dream, the dream of God’s kin-dom, is to actively become a part of it. Rev. King said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. My prayer on this day is that we take a new path, a different step, a kinder, bolder step toward justice that proclaims the Holy in each of us as we together live in to the dream. Amen.