Friday is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The United States officially recognizes the 3rd Monday of January as a federal holiday in his memory and in his honor.
He was murdered in Memphis Tennessee on April, 4th 1968 following a speech to the sanitation workers of that city.
There is no doubt he is a martyr for the cause of justice and equality. The Lutheran church designates his birthday (January 15th) as a “feast day” or a “memorial day” for Dr. King. We recognize him both as a martyr and a “renewer of society”.
I have heard the talking heads on TV say a specific phrase too many times as it relates to violence, hate and white supremacy, “This is not who we are.” It seems that if they say it enough times, it will be true. That is not how it works. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of hate, violence and white supremacy in our nation.
It is disheartening that I (as a pastor) in 2021 need to state that I am against white supremacy, bigotry, racism and prejudice of any kind. It is also disappointing to see people deny or ignore the evidence that this kind of hate is still strong in our country today.
This past week on the news I saw individuals wearing anti-semetic (anti-Jewish) clothing mocking the holocaust and expressing that more deaths should occur because of their ethnicity. We all have seen the violent deaths of various people of color on the news this past year as well.
To be crystal clear, I am wary of anyone that attracts or tolerates that kind of hate. I am suspicious of anyone that a hate group (or racist individuals for that matter) supports unless that person denounces it from the mountaintops clearly and articulately.
There is no room in our country or even our world for racism and systems that reinforce such inequality.
For a moment we had Dr. King who reminded us that yes indeed, “This is who we are,” but that we do not need to be stuck here. That God has something better for us.
God’s just ways are ahead of us if we embrace Christ. We can leave hate behind and rid it from our society if we stand for the justice that God brings. It is time pray for God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the words of the prophet Amos, we should yearn for what God offers. And it is this…
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
This is why we need to pray. Nothing happens on its own. It takes will and determination to stamp out racist and prejudicial hate.
Dr. King reminds us it won’t be easy, but something better is waiting for us if we do the work…
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.
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 I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land… Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN, April 3rd 1968