Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Killing of a King

"The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." 
- national monument -

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee on this day 49 years ago: April 4, 1968.

Many people in America today were not even alive 49 years ago, but I remember that day in April very well.  I was a seminary student at the time and his death deeply affected me and all of my colleagues especially since Dr. King was killed a week before Good Friday - the day on which Jesus was crucified in the cause of love. And yet, whether you were alive or not back then, the events of April 4th and the life of the man who was murdered on this day have significantly impacted our society. Dr. King was a martyr in the cause of justice, peace and compassion, and as I see it, he still remains a glowing example of what one life can do to make the world a better place. 

I am reminded of something the philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard once said:

The tyrant dies and his rule is over.
The martyr dies and his rule begins.

I find great truth is this saying. We hardly even remember who killed Dr. King but almost everyone knows of Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is a shrine devoted to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. located on the National Mall in Washington DC.  An imposing granite statue of Dr. King towers above the grounds along with carved tablets that contain notable quotes from some of his most famous speeches and writings. I have visited this place several times, and whenever I go there I often spend my time silently praying, reading and contemplating those powerful words of wisdom engraved into those stone tablets.

In our own day when vile speech and acts of hate occupy so much of our national life, when so many people have rejected their neighbors and demonized those perceived as different or foreign, those healing words of Dr. King are a balm for the soul. In fact, as I think about it, those words of Martin Luther King Jr. spoken more than half a century ago speak even louder to all of us in our own day and time then they ever did before. When the martyr dies his rule begins.

On this day when Dr. King laid down his life for the welfare of the common good, I remember his life and celebrate his powerful words of wisdom. Today I want these words to burn in my heart and I also pray that they will burn in the hearts of all people of goodwill, whoever you are are wherever you may be:

Hate causes a person to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful.

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

In this generation we will have to repent not merely for the vitriolic words
and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

Those who accept evil without protesting against it are cooperating with it.

But even in the midst of all the chaos, I refuse to believe that humankind is
tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war.
I refuse to believe that the bright daybreak of peace can never become a reality
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Yes, I still have the audacity to believe that
we shall overcome!

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