Good Friday MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

In Dr. King’s Christmas Sermon on Peace, he reflects on the meaning of Easter and the hope it brings to us.

“We once again stand in the Christmas season and think of the Easter season, simultaneously, for the two somehow go together. Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified him, and there on Good Friday on the cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed to earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, ‘No lie can live forever.’ And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and good will toward men: let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

“With this faith, we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when there will be peace on earth and good will toward men. It will be a glorious day, the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy.”

Link to more:

On April 3, 1968, in what was the final speech of his life, Dr. King spoke to the Memphis sanitation workers and their supporters at the Mason Temple and delivered what has become known as his “Mountain Top” speech. The final two and a half minutes of this speech offer are incredibly powerful and provide an affirmation of hope that we badly need to hear today.

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Think back on the various insights you have gotten from Dr. King during Lent. Which of them are most powerful for you?
  • What are some specific ways you can apply Dr King’s teachings to your life?
  • Offer a prayer of commitment for any steps you have decided to take as a result of reflecting on Dr. King’s message.

March 28 MLK Short Clip

Dr. King’s most famous speech is, of course, the “I Have a Dream” speech he gave in August of 1963 at the March on Washington. You’ve probably heard excerpts from this speech numerous times, but pause now to listen to the last five minutes of the speech and be inspired once again by King’s dream for America.

March 27 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

In his final speech to the SCLC national convention in August of 1967, Dr. King spoke on the topic of “Where Do We Go From Here?” In that speech, he talked about what it would mean for America to be “born again.”

“All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, ‘America, you must be born again!’

“We have a task and now let us go out with a ‘divine dissatisfaction.’ Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort and the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. Let us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security. Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history and every family is living in a decent sanitary home. Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into a bright tomorrow of quality, integrated education. Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem, but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity. Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol houses a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with his God. Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a might stream. Let us be dissatisfied until men recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout ‘White Power’ or ‘Black Power’ but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power.”

Link to more:

In April of 1967, Dr. King gave a powerful speech at Stanford University called “The Other America.” Here is a four-minute excerpt from the speech where he elaborates on some of the problems that we should view with “divine dissatisfaction.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Reflect on all of the economic and materials blessings that you have in your life. Then think for a moment about how different your life would be if you grew up in “the other America” that Dr. King describes.
  • Pray for the wisdom to more fully understand the impact of poverty in our community and for some insight about how you should respond.

Coming Soon:
New McClendon Scholar in Residence Programs to Focus on MLK

Please plan to join us for one or all of three spring programs about Martin Luther King’s message for us today. Each program will feature a prominent visiting scholar as well as local clergy in Washington, DC, who are active in work for social justice.

Click here for more information

March 23 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:
Near the end of his long “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King reflected on the role of the church in working for peace and justice.

“In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church; I love her sacred walls. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.

“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deem worth to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number, but big in commitment.

“Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo.. . . If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”

Link to more:
On June 5, 1966, Dr. King preached a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church on “Guidelines for a Constructive Church.” The entire sermon is 24 minutes long, but it doesn’t really begin until about the third minute and you may want to start at that point and listen to as much of it as you want. As is often the case with King’s sermons, the last few minutes are particularly powerful.

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Are there ways that the “fear of being nonconformists” keeps you and/or our church from being more involved with the struggles of the poor and the oppressed?
  • To use King’s metaphor, how can we make sure that our church is a thermostat and not a thermometer?
  •  Pray that you can understand more fully what it really means “to obey God rather than man.”

March 21 MLK Short Clip: ‘Your Life’s Blueprint’

** As Holy Week approaches, we’re posting very short clips at lunchtime on Wednesdays to inspire you and the many others on this list as we journey together toward Easter.**

In this two and a half minute excerpt from a speech to students, Dr. King gives advice about the principles we should follow as we plan the direction of our lives.

March 20 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

After arguing in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” that we need “creative extremists,” Dr. King went on to express his disappointment in “white moderates” who say they are sympathetic, but don’t do anything to help.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advised the Negro to wait until ‘a more convenient season’. Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

“I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I should have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.”

Link to more:

Dr. King’s last sermon was preached at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on March 31, 1968. He called the sermon “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” and below you will find a short excerpt from it as well as the entire sermon which is 46 minutes long.

Short Excerpt from “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

Full-length recording of “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Ask yourself whether there are times when you act like the white moderates King describes who “is more devoted to order than to justice.”
  • Pray for the courage to go against the grain and support the “great revolution” that needs to take place even if it is unpopular.


March 16 MLK Reflection

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

In April of 1963, Dr. King was arrested while leading city wide protests in Birmingham, Alabama. While he was in jail, many of the white ministers in the city took out an ad in the newspaper calling King an “extremist” and saying his activities were “unwise and untimely.” King responded by writing his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” from which the excerpt below is taken.

“As I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love—’Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.’ Was not Amos an extremist for justice—’Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ—’I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ Was not Martin Luther an extremist—’Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.’ Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist—’This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist—’We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremist will we be? Will we be extremists for hate or extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?

“In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality and, thusly, fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness and thereby rose above his environment. So after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Link to more:

During the middle of the Birmingham campaign, the tactics expanded to include teenagers and some younger children in the demonstrations and many were arrested. During the height of the arrests, Dr. King spoke at a mass meeting honoring the young people who had been arrested and this three and a half minute clip has highlights from that speech.

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Do you sometimes think you need to be more extreme in pursuit of justice? In what ways? What would that look like in your life?
  • Pray that God will give you the wisdom to know when you need to act as “a creative extremist.”

March 14 MLK Short Clip: How Long? Not Long!

** As Holy Week approaches, we’re posting very short clips at lunchtime on Wednesdays to inspire you and the many others on this list as we journey together toward Easter.**

At the end of the famous Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965, Dr. King gave a rousing speech from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. This clip shows the final two minutes of that speech where Dr. King uses his famous litany “how long? not long!” to talk about his hope for the future.

March 13 MLK Reflection

** Watch for a new post on Wednesdays. As Holy Week approaches, we’ll be sending very short clips to arrive in your inbox at lunchtime on Wednesdays to inspire you and the many others on this list as we journey together toward Easter.**

Today’s Quote from Dr. King:
The concept of the “beloved community” is central to Dr. King’s vision of the world he wanted to help create. Here are some of his thoughts on the topic.

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

“There is another element that must be present in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community.”

“The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of nonviolence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”

“The aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the beloved community; the aftermath of non-violence is redemption and reconciliation. This is a method that seeks to transform and to redeem, and win the friendship of the opponent, and make it possible for men to live as brothers in a community.”

Link to more:
On April 7, 1957 , Dr. King preached a sermon entitled “Birth of a New Nation” that celebrated the independence of Ghana, the first country in Africa to get independence from colonial rule. The sermon also gives a passionate explanation of why non-violence is necessary to achieve reconciliation and bring about the beloved community. Here is a seven-minute clip from that sermon.

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • What do you think Dr. King means when he says we need “a qualitative change in our souls” in order to create the beloved community?
  • Pray that you may have a greater understanding of what it truly means to be reconciled with someone you have seen as your enemy.

March 9 MLK Reflection

Power, Love, and Justice – Today’s Quote from Dr. King:

In a speech to the staff of his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in May of 1967, Dr. King talked about the meaning of power and why it is necessary to have power in order to achieve justice.

“Now that we are in this new era where the struggle is for genuine equality, we must recognize that we can’t solve our problems until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power. There again we must not be fooled about this. We must recognize that if we are to gain our God-given rights now, principalities and powers must be confronted and they must be changed.

“And we must not worry about power. We must not worry about using the word “power”, because this is what it wrong in so many instances, is that we are devoid of power. Now power is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. Power is the ability to affect change. The problem has been that all too many people have seen power and love as polar opposites. Consequently, on the one hand, that have thought of loveless power. And on the other hand they have thought of powerless love. They didn’t understand that the two fulfilled each other. And what we must understand in the non-violent movement is that power without love is reckless. And love without power is sentimental. In other words, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. And justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

Link to more:

Here is a short (just a minute and a half) video clip of Dr. King making some of the same points about power that are found in the quote above

For Reflection and Prayer:

  • Think about some times in our country when political power has been used to help achieve justice. Do these examples give you hope that similar things can happen in the future?
  • Pray that God will give you a greater understanding of the relationship between love and power and how they interact in our world.