Sunday, January 17, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Monday Jan. 18 is dedicated to the life and legacy of MLK. He was born on January 15, 1929 and was shot and killed on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN. I grew up knowing very little about MLK, just that he was a great American leader, a pioneer in the equal rights movement, and a genuine human being. I didn't know much about his pastoral work in Montgomery, Alabama or his famous sermons. Everyone has heard bits and pieces of his famous "I have a dream speech" delivered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, but there are hundreds of inspirational sermons and speeches, many of which are archived online and can be downloaded or found in various anthologies. One of the best anthologies is A Call To Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. which I highly recommend.

Last summer I had the chance to visit the King Center in Atlanta. The King Center is part museum, part living history, and part memorial. The museum part has many pictures, television footage, and documents from the King era. There is a room dedicated to Rosa Parks as well as Mohandas Gandi, the one who inspired King in the area of radical peacemaking.

Both Martin and his wife Coretta Scott King are buried next to one another in the center of a large reflecting pool which is very moving. The King center is actually a compound which contains the original Ebeneezer Baptist Church where he preached as well as the King Library and other important places of interest.

I came across King's writings a few years ago while teaching a course in Contemporary Christian Spirituality. I was moved by his deep love of God and fellow human no matter what their race, religion, or background. Most of us learned about King as a political hero, but he was a pastor and the gospel was at the core of his teaching of love, justice, peace, and forgiveness.

Below are some resources to learn more about King's work. If you have time listen to a few of his speeches or sermons, if you don't want to listen, read a few, you will be moved. King was so young, yet so strong. People hated him with a vengence, his life was threatened numerous times and his house was bombed. We all know that his life was cut short on April 4, 1968 when James Earl Ray shot and killed him. A nation mourned his passing, he was only 39 years old leaving behind a wife and four young children.

I hope we never forget the life and legacy of MLK, I for one won't.

Below are a few quotes from MLK for you to reflect on as you go about your day.

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' "

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Resources for the life and legacy of Martin Luther King