Monthly Archives: January 2021

Martin Luther King – A Man for Today

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the USA and after all that has gone on there in recent weeks the message and memory of King would seem to be needed now more than ever.  King’s commitment to social justice through non-violent means and his passionate pursuit of nothing less than the fullness of God’s Kingdom stand in sharp contrast with the hate filled racism that erupted on Capital Hill earlier this month.  When the opposition to the Civil Rights Movement led to wild threats and bloodshed, King’s response was not to raise a fist, but to raise his voice by literally singing hymns, preaching the word, and pressing on with his sights set firmly on Christ. 

Yesterday my colleague, John Torrance, referred to Taylor Branch’s Pulitzer Prize wining 1988 book, Parting the Waters.  It had been a long time since I had read his 900 plus page account of America in the King Years of 1954 – 1963, but John’s mention of it in his sermon led me to start reading it again.  Branch tells many insightful stories about King and others, but one of the stories that seems to speak to our day is the account of King’s visit to the White House in the spring of 1963 at which time King was pressured by the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy and  by President John F. Kennedy to break ties with two of the leaders in his Southern Christian Leadership Conference because the President claimed to have intelligence information proving they were communists. 

Both Robert and John F. Kennedy were in support of the civil rights movement and seeking to take helpful civil rights legislation through Congress, but President Kennedy told King all of that was in jeopardy if it came out that there were communists close to King.  The two SCLC leaders King was being asked to remove were indeed close to him, but not irreplaceable.  Yet King refused to budge even when the President warned King that he was also being watched.  King reminded them both that he too had been called a communist as had Bobby Kennedy, but that the claims were false and he would assume these claims were also false unless he saw the evidence.  He also told them that both of the accused were working far too hard in the civil rights movement to possibly have any other irons in the fire.    

Imagine the nerve of anyone questioning information provided by the President of the United States of America in a private face to face conversation.  King didn’t accuse the President of lying, but simply demanded proof.  King was no doubt grateful for Kennedy’s support of civil rights, but it didn’t make him infallible.  King’s refusal had people in the White House wondering who this unelected man was to question the President, but King’s true allegiance was to God.  How might things in the USA be different today had Christians who shared the same party and political priorities as the President acted like Martin Luther King and simply asked for proof when the President condemned people and procedures?   

But underneath King’s questioning of the President lay a deep loyalty and allegiance to friendship.  At the end of the day it wasn’t just that King was a man of truth, but also of love.  King chose to overlook rumours and believe the best about people unless there was proof otherwise.  It was this faith and his faith in God that fuelled his dream that continues to inspire the world.  Yet how often do  we cut people off or turn away from them on the basis of hearsay and gossip?  Martin Luther King once said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”  King’s allegiance to truth and love and heaven itself was greater than his allegiance to any political leader.  He believed that God always has the last word and love always wins. 

On this day set aside to honour the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, let us pray his memory will bring healing and hope and help this world recover his Dream.

A Prayer For the Turning of the Year

Gracious God this past year reminded us again that we know not what a year or even a day may bring and we are aware that as we begin the new year the pandemic is still with us.  So grant that we may we not lose sight of your faithful blessings day by day, for we know that whatever lies ahead you are always with us.  Help us to trust you as we begin this new year and come what may, grant to us your peace which passes all understanding.  When bad news overwhelms us, keep our hearts open to all that is good in this world.  Thank you that even on the worst days of the pandemic there were so many kind hands making a difference and bright minds seeking solutions and you were there in the midst, for where love is, God is.  O Lord enter this new year with us, and draw us closer to yourself and to one another as a sign of that day when sickness and death will be no more, and all the masks and veils will be removed and we shall see you face to face and understand even as we have been understood, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

JPH 31-12-20