As I was reading this from Thom Shuman, whose litanies and prayers we often use at Cornerstone Community, another member of the congregation sent it along as well… to me that means it deserves a wide reading. From Thom Shuman:
Like any saint, he had a side to him that was not something that
others could admire or would want to emulate. And like any sinner, he had those qualities, those gifts, those seeds God had planted inside of him, hoping that at some point they would take root, they would grow, they would blossom, they would bear fruit.
And when they did, when that gift of justice would no longer allow him to remain silent about the injustices faced by his people (and other minorities); when that gift of peace blossomed into calls for
non-violent stands against racism, classism, and war; when the fruit of love enabled him to look beyond the hurts, the pain, the loss, the death, the violence of centuries, to see the kingdom of hope, of joy, of inclusion, of reconciliation which God was preparing in our midst.
At that point, he was no longer defined by any sin; at that point, he
was not thinking of sainthood. At that point, Martin Luther King, Jr., became the servant God had shaped and formed him to be. At that point, his words became the sharp sword which would cut through all those words of hate, of ridicule, of injustice which had echoed in his (and his people’s) ears for years. At that point, he became one who was willing to be despised, so we could come to despise our prejudices towards those different from us; he was detested, so we might come to detest the abhorrent treatment the poor, the minorities, the women, the lost, the least of our society had endured all their lives.
Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. For some, they will
celebrate his saintliness, for his faithful response to God’s call in
his life. For others, they will once again focus on his sins, as if
that were any reason to ignore a prophet of God.
But if we really want to celebrate this holy day, let’s remember the
servant, and go out and do the same – for that is what God has shaped and formed us to be, as well.
Thom M. Shuman
Greenhills Community Church, Presbyterian Cincinnati, Ohio