It is my turn again to write our staff blog post as we approach the weekend of the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I could just repost my reflection from last year. So very many things have sadly remained the same, displaying the unresolved, continued, systemic racism in our culture and communities, and my feelings are all over the board this weekend.
The opening to my post from this time last year reads, “As I reflect this year on the birth, life, and death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have mixed emotions. I am overwhelmed with awe and respect for his leadership, his courage, his faith, and his sacrifice. I am ashamed of my white European and American ancestors who participated in perpetuating systems of injustice and denied the humanity of our brothers and sisters that required such leadership from Rev. King and countless others. I am heartbroken that we continue to need to fight for true freedom and opportunity and justice for one another here in our nation and all over the globe. And I am wondering about what the call from God is to me and to us regarding the work that needs to be done here and now.”
The hard questions continue this year: what are we called to do now? What does God require of us, here in the United Church of Christ of Iowa? Where does Jesus invite us to walk with him, in light of the needs, the wounds, the struggles, and the pain of our people, God’s people? What should this day of remembrance of Rev. King’s birthday spur us to do and to be?
I look to Rev. King himself to help me answer those questions. He understood in a way that I never can what “the long game,” must look like in the pursuit of justice for all. He knew in his very being how one day fits into one year, which fits into one decade, and so on. And he knew how his life and his work and his ministry both fit into the grand arc of history, bent toward justice, as well as the intimacy of their precise moments in time. He knew both immediacy and eternity, and seemed to have a sense of his place in both.
I look to his words from the sermon he delivered on February 4, 1968, unfortunately prophetic, offering thoughts about what he hoped would one day be shared at his funeral for answers to today’s questions and guidance for my own life and work and ministry:
“I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to, say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.
And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” (King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther. (Feb. 4, 1968). “The Drum Major Instinct” [sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA]. Retrieved from http:// http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/drum-major-instinct-ebenezer-baptist-church.)
Friends, this year, I’m working on continuing to be a better drum major for justice. Will you pick up your drum and join me?
Peace and Blessings for the Journey,
Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister