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Reawakening

Reawakening

Four days before he was murdered, the Revd Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, preached the Fifth Sunday of Lent at Washington National Cathedral.

Today, thousands will gather to recommit to the work of dismantling racism in this country, rallying in Washington on the fiftieth anniversary of King’s assassination.

Re-reading his sermon, it is sobering, and poignant, and inescapable to realize how little different it might have been had he preached it this Lent, this Easter, to the people gathering this week; as though we have been sleepwalking for the decades in between. In fact, as well as the biblical texts, Dr King also reflected upon the strange story of Rip Van Winkle, who slept through a revolution.

If it is time for the resurrection, it is time, too, for a reawakening.

Dr King’s words certainly seem like a timely spiritual reflection for this morning. The sermon is titled, “Remaining awake through a great revolution.” Here are some extracts. You can read the whole sermon here.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured. …

 

… Secondly, we are challenged to eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation. I must say this morning that racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.

It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism.

Something positive must be done. Everyone must share in the guilt as individuals and as institutions. The government must certainly share the guilt; individuals must share the guilt; even the church must share the guilt. …

 

… In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect. We are going to bring those who have come to feel that life is a long and desolate corridor with no exit signs. …

… One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we built gargantuan bridges to span the seas, we built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power.

It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, “That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.” That’s the question facing America today. …

 … I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. …

…It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. …

 

… One day a newsman came to me and said, “Dr. King, don’t you think you’re going to have to stop, now, opposing the war and move more in line with the administration’s policy? As I understand it, it has hurt the budget of your organization, and people who once respected you have lost respect for you. Don’t you feel that you’ve really got to change your position?” I looked at him and I had to say, “Sir, I’m sorry you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader. I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I’ve not taken a sort of Gallup Poll of the majority opinion.” Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus. …

Let me close by saying that we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. I’m going to maintain hope as we come to Washington in this campaign. …

We’re going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so, however dark it is, however deep the angry feelings are, and however violent explosions are, I can still sing “We Shall Overcome.”

We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

We shall overcome because Carlyle is right—”No lie can live forever.”

We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right—”Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again.”

We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right—as we were singing earlier today,

Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future.
And behind the dim unknown stands God,
Within the shadow keeping watch above his own.

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Carole Nolan

MlLK, such insightful, articulate words he spoke. What would he speak today!? Would he feel the frustration I feel? I believe he would but I believe he would stay true to his beliefs and continue the struggle!

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