Martin Luther King Day Messages
Missing Martin - This article was originally written in January of 1999 as part of my Unconventional Wisdom essay series. I was living in Dayton, Ohio at the time and serving as an Associate Minister at Phillips Temple CME Church. At the time Dayton had the biggest MLK weekend events in the country outside of Atlanta. These are my reflections after attending a prayer breakfast in honor of the occasion at the Dayton Convention Center. I was not there representing anyone but myself and had a bit of time for reflection about the nature of leadership.
Don't Give Up (Jan. 15, 2006) - In 2005 I preached on the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day at a black sister church a few blocks from my own. Their pastor was slated to speak the following year at our church, but he was hospitalized some ten days earlier and informed me that he would not be able to make it. So I told our people that Martin Luther King Jr. would deliver the message on that Sunday.
In preparation I studied twelve of his sermons and sampled about 20% of my message directly from King's original texts. Next, I wrote the rest of the sermon in a similar style, based on Galatians 6:9. But then I decided to kick it up a very big notch. I listened over and over to recordings of Dr. King's preaching and tried to pick up some of his patterns. The goal was not really to mimic Dr. King but simply to create a plausible artistic diversion, so that my listeners would be able to kind of ignore the fact that they were staring at the same white face they saw every Sunday.
Aware that there can be a fine line between paying homage and creating a parody, I tested portions of the sermon with some black colleagues before getting in way over my head—something which I probably did anyway, albeit with their encouragement. Though the message was targeted to our multicultural congregation on Capitol Hill, I trust that it works for others as a fitting tribute and a reasonable projection of what Dr. King might say to a predominantly white, multicultural congregation in the 21st century.
Jesus Has a Dream (Jan. 16, 2005) - Martin Luther King was not the only one who had a dream. We revisit Jesus' as-yet unanswered prayer for Christian unity in the Garden of Gethsemane. This sermon was preached at a black sister church, as the first step in a longer-term collaboration between our congregations. Based on John 17:20-23
The Opposite of Racism (Jan. 14, 2007) - If racism is the problem, what is the solution? What would it look like to replace racism with its moral opposite?