Jan 17 2021 - 2 Epiphany - Deacon Deborah Drake
Tomorrow is a designated day of remembrance of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was a Baptist minister and social activist who had a huge impact on the civil rights movement of the 1950’s in the United States. He was assassinated in 1968 and will be remembered for his non-violent protests against segregation and his “I have a Dream speech. Dr. King led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. He also helped organize the March on Washington in 1963, where he delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights work. His major work began when a group of civil rights advocates decided to contest racial segregation on the city’s public bus system following the incident on December 1, 1955, in which Rosa Parks, an African American woman, had refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger and as a consequence was arrested for violating the city’s segregation law.
Dr. King did not immediately respond to the call for him to lead this movement, he was only pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama for slightly more than a year.
He was about 25 years old, he was considered new to the neighborhood and to the people in the community.
Dr. King wondered why the people would choose him to lead this movement. He could not understand why the people were calling upon him to use his voice in the movement.
Dr. King knew if he was to lead this movement, he was convinced that nonviolent resistance was the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. Dr. King wrote: Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. The beauty of nonviolence is that in its own way and in its own time it seeks to break the chain reaction of evil”
Dr. King had many times in his younger life heard the call to ministry but did not listen to the call and for a while pursued medicine and also law. He wrote: During my senior year in college, I finally decided to accept the challenge to enter the ministry. I came to see that God had placed a responsibility upon my shoulders and the more I tried to escape it the more frustrated I would become.
Like Samuel in the reading from the Old Testament we heard this morning, Dr. King heard the call of God but it took some time and encouragement from others for him to listen to and follow this call.
The call involved stepping into the leadership position and speaking words believed to come from God.
The Gospel reading demonstrates the leadership of Jesus attracting people to join him on his journey in ministry. What are some of the reasons people were attracted to Jesus and would so readily follow him? One reason was the Christian community, as we have it particularly in the letters of Paul, says in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free. This is a sociological principle that defines a new type of community. Here is a community that invites you, which makes you an equal with all other members of that community. Which does not give you any disadvantages. On the contrary, it gives even the lowliest slave personal dignity and status. Moreover, the commandment of love is decisive. That is, the care for each other becomes very important. People are taken out of an isolation. If they are hungry, they know where to go. If they are sick, there is an elder who will lay on hands to them to heal them. Dr. King attracted people due to the way he communicated and carried out non- violent protests. Dr. King knew he needed the help of the media to show our country the racism carried out in everyday life in the United States and to unite us against racism in a non- violent manner.
Dr. King knew the importance of forming community and he followed the ways of Jesus by bringing people together from all ethnicities and all walks of life to band together in community for all people to be treated equally regardless of race, color or creed.
Dr. King’s dream really was following the ways of Jesus and forming community that believes each one of us is made in the image of God.
Dr. King and his family were threatened many times but he knew God put him in place at that time in history to speak out against racism and other injustices.
Eli told Samuel he had to speak the words God had given to him regardless of the consequences and Samuel became a great prophet.
Speaking up takes courage and encouragement. Pray our country raises up leaders who can change whatever injustices need to be changed in our country and do so through non- violent means. Pray also we have the courage to speak when God gives us the words. Amen.