Tribute to Martin Luther King Tribute

A Sermon delivered by Fr. Paul on Jan15, 2018

- STOP! Let me tell you what the Lord said to me!

--- Go ahead.

- You are the leader. You are the anointed one.You are on a mission.You disobeyed.You got rich.

--- I did my part, but my men got carried away.

-This is not about sacrificial offerings --- this is about submission to God.The things you did – (divination) are equivalent to idolatry. You rejected God; He will reject you!

The dialogue you just heard was a paraphrasing of the first reading for Mass, from the Catholic Lectionary (Monday, week 2). It is the confrontation of King Saul by the prophet Samuel, as recorded in the book of First Samuel, chapter 15. Our Gospel reading for today was specially chosen for the occasion, from Luke 11, 45-54 (“… your fathers killed he prophets; you put up the memorials”).

If you were to read this passage prayerfully and thoughtfully, you might find an echoing of certain words of Rev. King. You should certainly find the words of Jesus. And you probably find similarities with today’s world of politics. It contains:

-an admonition of a man of God, a prophet,

-to the leadership of a nation, (not just then, but now),

-pointing out blatant disobedience, greed, and idolatry.

-and the threat of being cut off from God’s blessings.

This year marks 50 years since Rev King’s assassination. Do you remember where were you 50 years ago? Some of you were not yet born. Some, of those present, were attending college. Some were serving in good conscience and honorably in the armed forces. Some were living in some foreign land, never dreaming that one day America would be their home.

That was the era of the war in Vietnam. I was in the seminary. It was a time for compulsory registration for the military draft. I was not 1-A for very long. Once I entered the seminary I was categorized as 4-D. That was the rating for divinity students (and we used to joke “for the mentally demented”) – which may explain a lot about this particular preacher. We lived near Westover Air Force Base, and I remember the roar of B52s being scrambled. I am told they were carrying nuclear war heads.

I read an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Professor Guy Nave. It was entitled, MORE TO KING THAN “I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH” (AJC Sunday, Jan 15, 2018). He stated that almost every one here can quote at least a phrase from the “I have a dream” speech, He doubts that few of us can quote from his “Beyond Vietnam; A Time to Break Silence”? It was one of his most important speeches, and he delivered it a year and a day before he was murdered.

Rev. King criticized American leadership for lacking true values, an ailment which only a radical revolution of soul could change. He claimed that only such a revolution would defeat the TRIPLE GIANTS OF:RACISM. EXTREME MATERIALISM, and MILITARISM.(Professor Nave’s article dealt mostly with the idea of a new militarism, at the cost of humanitarian concern.)

For his critiques of America, Dr. King was branded as anti-American, unpatriotic, a traitor, “The voice of Radio Hanoi”, The FBI and CIA had a dossier on him.

In defense of himself, Reverend King said:

-“We are of most use to our cause and our country, when we are courageous enough to speak truth to power on behalf of our people and country.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of peace. He never advocated physical violence, yet he was met with violence many times, and probably foresaw a violent death. “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life, … longevity has its place…but I’m not concerned about that now; I just want to do God’s will.”

The day he died, he was working on his Sunday sermon. He called his mother to tell her the title of that sermon. It was titled:“Why America may go to Hell”“We’re going to hell”, he said, “because America with its vast resources has not used it to end poverty, and not provided for the basic needs of people. A nation that does not use its money to uplift its people is approaching spiritual death.”

Professor Nave proposes that King’s call to visionary leadership is important for America to hear today. As we look about our society, and find many of the same situations still existing, in some form or other. The budgets of programs which promote education, feed the poor, take care of the sick and the elderly, the marginalized, are being trimmed. Massive military expenditures are on the horizon.

In that same previously mentioned speech, Dr King stated,

“Every nation must develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole,in order to preserve what is best in their society.

-- This global fellowship lifts neighborly concern above that of tribe, race, class, and nation, …in the reality of embracing all humanity in unconditional love.

-- We cannot afford to worship a god of hate, or of retaliation.

An “America first” strategy stresses national loyalties above global concerns. (As good as this may be for America, there is something reckless and un-Christian about that!) Rhetoric about ‘the finger on the big button” flies in the face a reasonableness, restraint, and responsibility.

Back to the Gospel of Luke, chapter15. Jesus said, to those who would plot his death: “Your fathers killed the prophets; you built the monuments”. These words came to me when I visited the Tower of London (as a tourist). It once held various prisoners, including some distinguished ones, including saints Thomas Moore and John Fisher. Their prison stays broke their health, and they were eventually executed for treason --- for exercising their consciences. The place of their confinement is now sometimes used as a chapel. It is in poor repair, and is presently undergoing restoration, financed by private funds. The first major contribution was made by the Queen.

Your fathers killed – you put up monuments..” Is this the restoration of a historical royal property? Is this an admission to a complicity in the crime? (One has to be fair, and say this is a different dynasty than Henry’s). Is this an honoring of martyrs and saints? Is it saying that enough is enough, enough of hatred bitterness, and discrimination?

I agree with the professor: the “I Have a Dream” speech is important; so is the “Beyond Vietnam; A Time to Break Silence”speech. If you want to honor Dr King, (God), then join in the revolution of values, the revolution of the heart,

by challenging the giant triplets of Racism, Extreme materialism, and Militarism.

Some of the above is national policy. Some of it is our hubris, narrow vision, selfishness, and even sin. It is not just about the politicians, but about how we vote, what we buy, and the way we live. It is about that radical revolution of the heart that Jesus commanded us to do. If all you do is recite speeches, and nothing else, then you are offering lip service to the bold and courageous legacy of Dr. King, and also the Gospel.

STOP! I have a message from God for you.