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Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Extra: Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo from Mike Licht,
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When I was discerning whether or not to officiate a same-sex wedding (in violation of denominational statements), I re-read Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

I heard voices of those who said, "This is not the time. This is not the way to address the injustice."

And I read King's words: "Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was 'well timed' in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

I heard voices of those who said, "You agreed to certain rules by being ordained in this denomination."

And I read King's words: "The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.'"

I heard voices of those who said, "You will destroy the unity of the church." And I thought about my own passionate love for the church.

And I read King's words: "But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."

It is important to take time to listen to the words of God's prophets--ancient and modern. I am grateful for this opportunity to listen with you and through you to the words and life of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Please share comments and links to posts related to your own experiences with the powerful voice of Dr. King. (Click here for instructions on embedding links in your comment.)


  1. Replies
    1. A powerful reflection! I felt what it was like to listen to King's words with your young children.

    2. Thanks for sharing your reflection, Terri. Sounds like a wonderful interfaith service! Prayers are with your congregation as you follow the dream God has given you.

  2. Joanna, this is powerful tribute you have offered here. Thank you!

  3. Joanna, I imagine it's a prophet's dream that their words will actually find feet and voice when it matters. You did it!

  4. With gratitude for a wonderful MLK worship service yesterday, I reflected on The Joy of Celebrating.

  5. Too much to say, I just posted
    the lyrics to the wonderful hymn crafted in the Episcopal Church in his honor and a sculpted icon of him among the martyrs commemorated at Westminster Abbey.

    1. Thanks for sharing the link. I had not heard/seen that hymn before. And King was not commemorated at Westminster Abbey when I was there (almost 20 years ago!). Lovely.


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