Sermon 1.15.23

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday – 2023

What do Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brussels, Cyprus, Denmark, Cameroon, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Israel, Italy, Madagascar, Martinique, Mexico, Niger, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Togo, Tanzania, and the United States all have in common? Each of these countries has a street or boulevard named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And there is a bridge named for King in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. And a forest named for King in Israel, in the southern Galilee region.  And a park named for King in Paris. There is a church in Debrecen, Hungary, the second largest city in that country, named for King. There is a Transformation Center named for King in Johannesburg, South Africa, There is a school in Accra, Ghana named for King.  And there is the Gandhi-King Plaza and garden in New Delhi, India. 

During the Arab Spring of the early 2010’s, activists were inspired by a comic book about King titled ‘Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,’ published in Arabic and Farsi.  There is an annual birthday celebration for King in Japan.  In Tiananmen Square in China, they had posters that said, ‘We Shall Overcome.’ 


The declaration of the prophet Isaiah that we heard this morning, reminded people that God’s message of justice was not just for their community but so that they could be a light to all nations. King saw that the dynamics of his experience in America were also at work in other contexts and settings around the world.  Fully rooted in the American experience of racism, King proclaimed a message of justice and non violence that continues to resonate around the world. So, his message became universal and he has become an inspiration the world over. 

Perhaps Dr. King is America’s greatest export! 

In the past year or so, LUCC member Christy Martin has shared with me her interest in Dr. King and she has been studying his legacy.  So, today, I’m going to ask Christy some questions about King so that we see how his message is resounding in our congregation and community. 

            What sparked your interest in Dr. King?

            What in his message speaks to you today?         

            What is meaningful to you from his legacy?

            What do you want your teenage daughters to know about Dr. King?

What do you want Black people in America to remember from Dr. King’s teachings?

            What message do White people need to hear from Dr. King?

            If you could ask Dr. King a question, what would you ask him?

            Open to congregation to ask questions. . .

We listen to the words of Dr. King:

“Some years ago, almost two hundred now, our nation signed a huge promissory note, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Oh, what a marvelous creed.  Just think about what it says.  It didn’t say some men; it said all men.  [And we might add, women.]  It didn’t say all white men; it said all men, which includes black men.  It didn’t say all Gentiles.  It said all men, which includes Jews.  It didn’t say all Protestants, it said all men, which includes Catholics.  And I can go right down the line. And then it said something else.  That every man has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state. . . . They are God given.” 

[The Radical King:  Martin Luther King, Jr., edited and introduced by Cornel West, from ‘The Other America,’ 3.10.68, New York City, p. 241.]

So, to Americans who are people of faith, King issues this challenge:

“This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions.  We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers [and sisters].”

[The Radical King:  Martin Luther King, Jr., edited and introduced by Cornel West, from ‘Beyond Vietnam, A Time to Break Silence,’ 4.4.67 at Riverside Church in New York City, p. 206.]

So, in the spirit of the prophet Isaiah and Jesus our Christ, who inspired Dr. King, let us re-dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of liberty and justice for all.


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