Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Speech on the Steps
Pictures and blog post by Matt Larseingue
It’s the third Monday in January. Your kids are probably out of school, you might have gotten the day off from work – you definitely aren’t getting any mail. For many of us, a quick glance at the calendar is required to remember that this holiday is Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day.
Holidays are funny in that way. They expose our natural tendency to get wrapped up in the here and now, in the little things that impact our own personal fiefdoms. We tend to focus on the secondary aspects of the occasion rather than taking the time to reflect on the genesis of the holiday.
Christmas is the classic example. There are family visits to facilitate, meals to prepare, activities to plan, gifts to buy and finances to worry over. We lose sight of the “reason for the season.” In my experience, the church has done an admirable job of combating this phenomenon. We are constantly reminded that Christmas is not about lavish, worldly gifts or being the world’s greatest host or hostess, but rather is a time to reflect on God the father sending God the son into the world as the ultimate gift to humanity.
Our need to be reminded of the importance of a holiday isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it should be recognized. We all know the old saying – admitting you have a problem is the first step. We are sinful. We are self-absorbed. But, we have a God-given capacity to be thoughtful, to be reverent, to appreciate the accomplishments of those who came before us.
This is not to say that the life of MLK should be held as equal to that of Jesus. No man has, or ever will, hold a candle to the perfect man. But MLK Day is momentous in its own right. It is a day set aside in remembrance of the many men and women who pushed the world to uphold the principle that all men are equal under God. With Dr. King as their leader, they fought fire with peace, violence with intellect, discrimination with integration.
The non-violent resistance practiced by Dr. King and other civil rights activists serves as one of the strongest examples in the modern era of a Christ-inspired movement ushering in monumental change against great odds. While reflecting on this can remind us of how far we’ve come, it also illuminates how far we’ve left to go.
If you’ve any doubt that there is still work to be done, consider that MLK Day was first proposed shortly after Dr. King’s assassination in 1968 but would not be signed into law until 1983 and was not observed until 1986. Even then, the holiday was not officially observed in all 50 states until 2000. That is sobering.
But, rather than lament the distance we’ve left to go, God calls on us to stand up and surge forward. Let the accomplishments of Dr. King as well as the strides made by those who came before and after him inspire us to do better. Don’t let MLK Day pass by as just another day off. Hold it up as an example of what we can accomplish when we strive to live like Jesus lived – surrounded by and accepting of men and women of varying ethnicities, beliefs, and walks of life. The Well Church at Keller is striving to do just that.
On Monday, January 18, 2016 – MLK Day – the Well Church and the City of Keller collaborated to hold a public viewing of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The Well Church, citizens of Keller and surrounding cities, and Keller City leadership (including the mayor and the chief of police) came together on this near-freezing night to socialize, to celebrate, and to talk about the work that remains to be done.
Pastor Trey Grant challenged those in attendance to consider what their tables look like. Do the people you surround yourself with look the same as you? Do they vote they same as you? Do they believe the same as you? Change is not inevitable. Justice does not prevail without the God-inspired efforts of men to drive it forward. It was Dr. King who said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail:
“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
Progress is, more often than not, made one small step at a time. Odds are that you cannot walk out of your front door tomorrow and set right all that is wrong with the world, but you can begin. For many of us, a good first step is to consider what our table looks like. Is it diverse? Is it challenging? Is it open?
You don’t have to sell off all of your earthly possessions and move to a third world country in order have an impact or, perhaps more importantly, be impacted. You can make a difference by letting others in. Better yet, don’t just let them in – seek them out and bring them to your table.