Monday, January 18, 2021by Reverend Dan on January 18, 2021
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had he not been assassinated, would have been 91 years old a few days ago.
We know about the speeches. We have read his writings. We have heard about his adoption of nonviolent resistance from Gandhi for use in the Civil Rights Movement, and about the tenets of nonviolent resistance. (If you haven’t heard of those, there are six. 1. It is not a method for cowards; it does resist but in a passive way. 2. It is a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows without striking back. 3. It avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of the spirit. 4. It does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. 5. It is directed against the forces of evil rather than the people caught up in those forces. 6. It is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice.)
What we sometimes forget, however, is that Dr. King was a human being with a life beyond the movement he led and the publicity that followed him. We would do well to remember that for it is when we put faces to the name and the family that lived beyond the spotlight, we see someone no different than ourselves who only wanted what was best for his family.
King skipped the 9th and 12th grades and entered Morehouse College in Atlanta at the age of fifteen. He received a BA from Morehouse in 1948 when he was just 19 years old, and a BD from Crozier Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class). He completed his residency for his Ph.D. at Boston University in 1953 and was awarded the degree when he finished his thesis in 1955.
From 1954 until 1960, he was the pastor of Dexter Avenue Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. From there, he moved to Atlanta and preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church on the rare occasions when he was home. His father was pastor at Ebenezer for over forty years.
His was born Michael King Jr. but while his father was on a trip to Germany in 1934 for the Baptist World Alliance, he witnessed the rise of Nazism. When the elder Dr. King got home, he began to refer to himself as Martin Luther King, Sr. (after the German leader of the Protestant Reformation) and began to call his five-year-old son Martin Luther King, Jr. It wasn’t until King was 28 years old in 1957 that the name on his birth certificate was changed.
Dr. King traveled more than six million miles and gave more than 2,500 speeches/sermons in his short lifetime.
In 1964 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, he was the youngest person at thirty-five to win that award.
More than 740 cities in the United States have a street named at him.
Once while in New York autographing books, a black woman came up and asked, “Are you Martin Luther King?” Without looking up from the book he was signing, he said, “Yes” and at that moment she stabbed him in the chest with a knife before being wrestled to the ground. He was rushed to Harlem Hospital and there they found that the blade of the knife was still in him. The tip was on the edge of his aorta, which if even nicked would have caused him to bleed out in seconds. The next morning, the New York Time said that the doctors had commented that if he had sneezed, he would have died. In the next days he received letters from President Kennedy and Vice-President Johnson, from the governor of New York, and in later years he could not remember what they said. What he remembered were the words of a letter he received from a high school girl. The letter said, “Dear Dr. King. I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School. While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing to you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.” Her cherished that letter for the rest of his life.
Sometimes we forget that the most famous of people live lives that we know nothing about. But it is in their reflections that we see a glimpse of what matters the most to them. A simple letter from a young person the color of the people who had beaten, arrested, jailed, and harassed him gave him hope for the next generation.
I pray that on this day, we would all do well to see those we may disagree with for what they are: children of the same God and people with families and lives who only want the same thing we want. To live in peace with each other and make the world a better and safer place.
Father . Thank you for those who lead us to peace and hope for a better tomorrow. In Jesus’ name, AMEN