Forty years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Some of you know that I took two courses in Seminary that directly dealt with his life, and a couple of others in which his life and works played a prominent role. All to say, Dr. King has had a profound impact on my life and ministry. I am aware of some of his flaws, and I'm not naive about how significant those flaws are. Nonetheless, this man has left an indelible mark on my soul and so I write today to urge to take a little time to think about him, perhaps read something from him or watch some video of him.
I close with a quote from his Letter from Birmingham Jail that convicts me very deeply and causes me to pray that, as the Pastor of a "white church," my heart will not be as hard as those who have gone before me:
"I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi, and all the other Southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: 'What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with the words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?
"Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the Church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappoinent where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the Church. How could I do ohterwise? I am in the unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being non-conformists."
(Quoted from The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., IPM: 1998, page 200.)