Friday, April 04, 2008

The Feast of Martin Luther King, Junior

His biography from the Nobel Prize site:
Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family's long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.

In 1954, Martin Luther King accepted the pastorale of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.

In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream", he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

Prayers of the People

Mohandas Gandhi taught that “prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.” With this in mind, let us pray and act for freedom, justice, and peace.

We remember the conviction of Martin Luther King, Jr., that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
We pray for courage and determination by those who are oppressed.

We remember Martin’s warning that “a negative peace which is the absence of tension” is less than “a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
We pray that those who work for peace in our world may cry out first for justice.

We remember Martin’s insight that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
We pray that we may see nothing in isolation, but may know ourselves bound to one another and to all people under heaven.

We remember Martin’s lament that “the contemporary church is often a weak ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”
We pray that neither this congregation nor any congregation of Christ’s people may be silent in the face of wrong, but that we may be disturbers of the status quo when that is God’s call to us.

Please offer your own intercessions, petitions, and thanksgivings.
Here the People may name their own prayers aloud.

We remember Martin’s “hope that dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
In faith we commend ourselves and our work for justice to the goodness of almighty God.

The Presider concludes
Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

--From the Freedom Mass, St. Cuthbert's Episcopal Church, Oakland, California

This man affected me profoundly when I was a student in high school, a very middle-class, conservative, Baptist white boy. The moral power of standing up for what is right without resorting to violence impressed me deeply. Today, on the feast of his martyrdom for justice, I honor him and give thanks for his witness.

The Freedom Mass is one of the liturgies I crafted for St Cuddy's.

Keep dreaming. Keep witnessing. Proclaim truth. Demand justice.

--the BB

4 comments:

Kirstin said...

Wow. Those prayers are powerful.

FranIAm said...

Oh Paul- just amazing. Thank you so much. Linkage on its way.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Paul, the prayers are beautiful. You have a gift, my friend.

In my mind I often link King and Gandhi, because I know that MLK learned and drew strength from Gandhi, and because they were both great men of peace. MLK was steeped in the Scriptures and drew great strength from them, also.

Paul said...

Thanks.

King sparked my interest in Gandhi and that also led to Leo Tolstoy who wrote of non-violent resistance.

The Freedom Mass uses lots of Gandhi quotes as well. The King material is mostly in the Prayers of the People.

I remember being moved by both the passion and the brilliance of the Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

King and Bobby were assassinated in my senior year of college, with the Vietnam War raging. I was all for Eugene McCarthy and stunned by the convention in Chicago and all the chaos and struggles there. I gradually faded away from politics until 2004 when I became determined to fight on behalf of this nation and what it used to stand for.