Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Tribute
January 18, 2015
We’ve done so much out of respect and
admiration for, in celebration and in honor of the Reverend
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that I wonder if these expressions
are just that — words left hanging on calendars and parade
routes, on school buildings, city streets and expressways, in
libraries and museums, in filled rooms with empty people. I am
afraid that we are content with the sound of his words, that
we like the way that they make us feel and perhaps, appear to
others, that they are consumed but not digested, preached but
not practiced, repeated but not remembered again until next
year. We lick our fingers and then close our mouths satisfied.
We push away from the table full of ourselves. Having done
none of his work, we take the credit.
We have forgotten that he was a Baptist minister, a pastor, a
shepherd while his flock was a nation. We have forgotten that
he was not really fighting for civil rights but declaring the
truths of the kingdom of God on earth, the message lost in
politics, propaganda and people- pleasing. We have forgotten
that he was only reminding us of what God says about all of
us, that we are created equally—no one human being or culture
having more time with the hands of God than the other. His
message cannot be reduced to a march, a dream or a stamp. It
is we who still need to be moved though we don’t want to be
stirred or sent anywhere should it bring discomfort.
We’ve named schools after King but what have we
learned? We can teach peace but we cannot program it. We
cannot schedule it, capture it in book chapters of assigned
reading, contain it to lectures and presentations, principles
and projects. Peace must be practiced with God’s help as God’s
peace is beyond our understanding, beyond degrees earned or honorary.
We must be ruled by it since Christ is the Prince of peace.
We’ve named streets after King but where are we going—
chaos or community? What distance has the soul traveled
if we still find ourselves protesting in the streets for human
rights? And what of our regeneration, of our inward
transformation if the eyes are without his vision, if the mind
is not renewed to see the coming of the Lord? We have to wake
up if we want to make King’s dream a reality. If we are still
coming up with excuses for why we can’t go there or why they
can’t come here, then we have not moved much at all.
We can picture King, frame him, hang him up in our
homes but if we cannot see the image of God in our selves, our
neighbor, the immigrant and the stranger, then take it down.
Words like brotherhood and unity are not mere decorative
speech. He did not say it because it sounded good or went well
with equality and justice. No, he said it because we cannot
say that we have love without them.
We’ve made monuments of King but where do we stand when
it comes to reconciliation? Still, we are frozen in time past,
unable to move beyond our handed down hatreds, our traditions
of prejudice. Where do we sit at “the table of brotherhood?” I
assure you that there is no assigned seating there. No,
“there’s plenty good room in God’s kingdom. Just choose your
seat and sit down.” There is no segregation, no red
lining, no gated communities but one house, our Father’s house
with many rooms.
We quote King, recite his speeches from memory but do
we even believe what he is saying? Do we care that he is but
repeating the words of the prophets before him, the old and
yet new promises of God. Today, we pay tribute but we must not
merely observe his work but “put our hands to the plow.” We should not look at him but
ourselves because he has “been to the mountaintop. " And he lives there now. Our best
tribute would be to join him there.
This tribute was prepared for and presented to
the saints of Village Baptist Church on Sunday, January 18,
2015 at the 8 a.m. service.
 Philippians 4.7
 Isaiah 9.6
 This is the title of Rev. King’s last book: Where do we go from
here? Chaos or Community.
 “Plenty good room” is a Negro spiritual.
 Matthew 14.2
 Luke 9.62
 The title of King’s last public speech was
“I’ve been to the mountaintop.”