It’s funny how sometimes our gospel lessons sync so well with what is going on in the world. There is no greater example of this than this week, as we are in the midst of two straight weeks hearing about Jesus calling the first disciples and today marking the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. The example he gave this world of a selfless life lived in pursuit of justice, peace, and hope is one of the greatest visions for discipleship that this world has ever seen, and so this week as we reflect on our own call to discipleship and where God is calling us, we also remember the words of one of God’s greatest disciples.
There is much that I could say about Dr. King, but the reality is, the best way to celebrate his life and his example is through his own words. My senior year of seminary, I took a January term class focused on Dr. King’s theology and ethics, and though the class ended up not quite living up to expectations, it did bring me into contact with more of Dr. King’s own writing than I had ever read before. So today, as we celebrate his life, I lift up to you just a small collection of Dr. King’s words that stretch through the decades and speak into our own hearts, sounding like they could be describing our day and age and not something in the past….
“Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of me and is not concerned about the slums that [destroy] them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”
“In the midst of outer dangers I have felt an inner calm and known resources of strength that only God could give. In many instances I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope.”
–from Pilgrimage to Nonviolence
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” –from Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
“Deeply woven into the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God, and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value. If we accept this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with ill-health, when we have the means to help them.”
“In a real sense, all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich; the betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
“Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”
–from Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, chapter 6 “The World House”
All quotes taken from: King, Martin Luther, and James Melvin. Washington. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986. Print.