The Faith and Work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Lives On

Fifty years ago today on the eve of Holy Week, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., endured his own passion and death.  The assassination of this man of God who, like a modern-day Moses had led people on a journey of hope toward freedom, sent shockwaves of grief and civil unrest across the land, leaving scars in our cities that are still healing. Yet this tragic loss did not still his voice – it continues to ring out and inspire new generations in confronting the challenges of prejudice, injustice and division today.

Remembering Dr. King now 50 years later, as people of faith, we can see not only the evil of suffering and death, but also the glory of Easter.  Dr. King as well, the night before he was brutally slain, with his very last public words in a sermon on “unfulfilled dreams,” also had testified, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Five days before he was taken from us at the young age of 39 years, Dr. King gave a sermon at the National Cathedral here in Washington taking as his starting point Jesus’ words, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).  It was Dr. King’s steadfast faith which saw him through many dark nights, and it is that faith that calls us to continue his work and see that his unfulfilled dream is more fully realized.

As I said in my pastoral letter, The Challenge of Racism Today, the intolerance and lingering racism which poison our society will not go away without a concerted awareness and effort on everyone’s part. We all have a role to play because we are all affected by it. “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly,” said Dr. King in his National Cathedral sermon.  We are all called to come to the aid of the oppressed and lift up in all we do the dignity of every human person.

Dr. King had faced many threats to his life during his ministry and in a sermon two months before he was killed, he talked about what he would like to be said at his funeral.  He said not to mention his Nobel Peace Prize or other accolades, but simply “to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others, [that he] tried to love and serve humanity” and that he worked for justice, peace and righteousness.  Certainly, Dr. King did that, leaving a lasting legacy. Continuing his cause, we too look forward in hope with him for that day when the Lord “will wipe every tear from [people’s] eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).