It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see…Lin-Manuel Miranda
Next Monday we will remember the legacy of a man who was able to do a great deal in his short thirty-nine years on this earth – though many will rightly argue not nearly enough before those shots rang out through the Memphis sky. Even to this day, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory is still tossed about in so many ways that sometimes it is difficult to gain a clear picture of the man we stop to honor every January.
Quite often, he is quoted in uncomplicated ways. Comfortable ways. Agreeable ways.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
I have decided to stick with love. Hated is too great a burden to bear.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
These are good statements. All of us can agree to these statements. They do not challenge our sensibilities in the slightest, for we are Christians – born of infinite love and hope. We know that we must strive forward toward a better tomorrow.
And yet, when we remain in the consolation of these undemanding passages, we forget that Dr. King was far more than merely some preacher of the Gospel who cherry-picked verses of scripture to make his congregations feel happy.
He was a prophet – speaking God’s truth into the world. He was a leader of justice and change. So to truly understand the legacy, the gift of objectives and dreams that he has passed down to us, we must go far beyond the consolation of painless words. We must listen carefully for the fuller strands of his song that still sings…
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Quite frankly, those are some mild passages. Like every prophet, God’s voice through him only gets stronger and more fiery from there. Why?
Because he was honoring another legacy. A legacy far more ancient than even three or four hundred years. The legacy Dr. King honored was two thousand years old, and even thousands of years older beyond that.
Make no mistake – Dr. King was a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew the Jesus of the gospels. The Living Word of God who became flesh to lift up the lowly and topple the powerful from their thrones. To fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. To bring good news to the poor, releasing the captives, and making the blind see. To let the oppressed go free. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And to fight for a world where God’s justice rolls down like a river and God’s righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
So this MLK Day, as we stop to honor the memory and legacy of a man who did so much with so little time, take the pause as an opportunity to learn from his words. He spoke far more often than simply once on the Lincoln Memorial steps – including at our very own Presbyterian Montreat one summer.
And if you are wondering about a good place to begin, start with the Letter from the Birmingham Jail. It is one of his central works and is easily available online for free. It is an excellent start.
As for me and my house, we will be honoring Dr. King’s legacy by working on the Little Giants’ education about the history and current state of systemic racism (if you have young children, I have some great books I’d be happy to show you). And we will be continuing my daughters’ and my own education about Dr. King, the state of racism, and how we can actively fight it.
Because, my friends, we still have a long way to go until racism is fully eradicated from our world. And it is our job, as followers of Jesus Christ, to take responsibility for being a part of the positive change for the better. Just like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Blessings, Pastor Janie