Project Description

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 /1 Corinthians 12:12-30 / Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

April 3rd, 1968 was a dreary night
in Memphis, Tennessee.

It was the eve of the
assignation of Dr. Martin Luther King.

King was scheduled to speak at a rally—
a rally to organize a non-violent march in
support of the sanitation workers of Memphis—
who, even with what the city was paying them,—
were living in poverty.

A few weeks earlier King had
participated in a Memphis march
for the same purpose. . .

and a few radicals were encouraged to
turn the non-violent march into a violent one.

Their tactics worked—
and the marched quickly turned to chaos.

King wanted to show that a
non-violent march could take place.

He was down and depressed—
the tide was turning against him—
many thought that vitriol and violence
would bring quicker results.

But King stuck to the Gospel of Jesus—
of loving one’s enemies even while
fighting for the principles of human dignity.

And all of this was taking its toll.

So, on the eve of his assassination—
he was feeling sick and tired—
and he told his lieutenants to handle the rally.

He was already in his pajamas
in bed at the Lorraine Hotel
when they called him.

The crowd was huge—
they wanted to hear King.

So he got out of bed—
got dressed—
and was taken to the rally.

Most have probably seen video clips of
the end of Dr. King’s final speech.

It was powerful—
It was prophetic.

King told the crowd that he had been to the mountaintop—
that he had seen the promised land—
that he may not get there with them—
but they would get there.

That it didn’t matter what happened to him—
he just wanted to do God’s will.

He was not afraid of any man—
because he had been to the mountaintop.

And he ends with the famous:
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of
the coming of the Lord.”

Then King collapses in a chair.

He’s given them all he’s got—
and the crowd goes wild.

The next day,
he would be shot and killed.

But what I want to concentrate on today
is the very beginning of that historic speech.

I think it speaks directly to us—
I know it speaks directly to me.
King starts by imagining himself at the beginning of time—
and with a panoramic view of human history—
Almighty God asks him,
“Martin Luther King,
which age in human history
would you like to live in?”

And then, King takes a mental flight to Egypt and
sees God’s people crossing the Red Sea—
and wandering in the wilderness—
and moving on towards the Promised Land.

But King doesn’t stop there—
He would move on to a different era.

And he sees himself in ancient Greece—
on top of Mount Olympus—
around the Parthenon—
with Plato and Aristotle and Socrates—
with Euripides and Aristophanes—
discussing the great and eternal issues of reality.

But King wouldn’t stop there—
he would move on to a different era.

Then he envisions moving on
through other eras of history—
and he gets to 1863—
and watches President Abraham Lincoln signing
the Emancipation Proclamation.

But King wouldn’t stop there—
he would move on to a different era.

And after seeing all the different eras of human history—
strangely enough, King proclaims,
that he would turn to God and ask,
“Let me live in the era that I presently live in—
then I will be happy.”

The request sounds strange King admits
because “the world is all messed up”—
“the nation is sick”—
“trouble is in the land”—
and “confusion is all around.”
And then he says. . .

And then he says:

“only when it’s dark enough,
can you see the stars.”

Listen to those words my fellow Christians:

“only when it’s dark enough,
can you see the stars.”

And as I heard the strong and melodic voice of
Dr. Martin Luther King preaching these words,
I said:
“Those words are for me”—
“Those words are for us.”

“the world does look all messed up”—
“the nation is sick” in many ways—
there is “trouble is in the land”—
there is “confusion is all around.”

Human dignity is under attack
at every stage in human life—
from the unborn to the born—
from the young to the elderly—
from the living to the dying.

Discrimination still exists—
Poverty still exists—
unnecessary human suffering still exists!!!

But just think of the opportunity—
think of the opportunity to be that
bright star in the darkness.

That’s why King wanted to live in this era—
there was much work to be done in the name of God—
in the name of Jesus.

King recognized the potential—
and he embraced the opportunity.

Only one authority stood over Him—
it was Almighty God—
it was the ways of Jesus.

The civil rights movement
was a Word of God movement!!!

It was the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
that could be the corrective for the nation—
the healing force in the nation—
that had the power to soften hearts of stone.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ—
that is as true today as it was then.

And it has always been true—
and it always will be true.

The Gospel has wisdom and power.

And in the end, all things will be judged
using the Gospel as THE standard.

That’s why King would never
compromise on non-violence.

Even though,
He was spat upon.

Even though,
he was cursed at. . .
and physically threatened . . .
and had rocks thrown at Him. . .
and was stabbed. . .
and arrested on bogus charges. . .
and had bombs planted under his house
to kill him and his family—

He never resorted to hate. . .
He preached and lived the words of Jesus. . .
Love your enemies. . .
Love your enemies. . .
Love your enemies.

“only when it’s dark enough, can you see the stars.”
It seems today—
that no matter what side someone is on—
no matter what principle one is trying to defend—
it quickly devolves into a mob mentality. . .

Full of blindness and bias—
Full of vitriol and venom.

When one ceases to love one’s enemy—
one has wandered outside the
boundaries of Christianity.

But us—

We are called to something different—
We are under a higher and more powerful authority. . .

We are called to the Gospel—
the ways of Jesus. . .

To become a shining star in the darkness.

How blessed we are to live in this era—
there’s much work to be done—
there’s much healing that needs to take place. . .

We recognize the potential—
and we embrace the opportunity.

So, when people see us and hear us:
they will know—
just like today’s Gospel tells us:

That Jesus Christ IS the anointed one—
That He came to bring good tidings to the poor—
To proclaim liberty to the captives—
That the blind may see—
And the oppressed go free.

Holy Spirit 01/27-28/2019