28 December 2008


So I was in Memphis Tennessee at the beginning of December for the "Great Emergence Conference" with Phyllis Tickle.  This was my first time there.  Great city - didn't make it to Grace Land, but I did make it to the Civil Rights Museum.

The Museum is based around the hotel where Martin Luther King Junior was shot, and the apartment across the alley where it is believed that the fatal bullet came from.  Walking up to the hotel those photographs were taken of the slain civil rights leader got me thinking about a bunch of things.  

The first is Dr. King's Mountain Top speech - he made it the night before.  It is clear that he knew he was going to die - at least in retrospect.  It is amazing to hear this - amazing.  Shivers up and down my spine as a sense the conscious knowledge of God.  King did this out of God's calling, and not out of any desire of his own.

The second thing that comes up for me is that he was an adulterer.  It is clear to most Christians that King was a prophet sent from God to bring Good News to the United States - good news that many weren't ready or willing to hear.  He did God's work.  But he was not perfect - clay feet if you will.  He was not the most perfect example of morality.  We cannot discount his words, or God's activity through him, just because of his indiscretion.  But in our present time, we feel that we can do that.  If some falls short of moral standards, many times we can shut out their voice because they aren't living up to what we feel is necessary to be a messenger of God.

The third thing is Martyrdom.
King was martyred - I remember when I was at seminary seeing that he was recognized by the Lutheran church as a martyr, and being very moved by that.  Then being in the presence of the site of his death, and thinking about the Mountain Top speech - I wondered it was appropriate to shed tears or to celebrate the work of God through King both alive and dead.  
It made me think of the story of Perpetua - one of the early Christian martyrs.  She was given to wild beasts - and when the ribbon was nocked out of her hair - she put it back in - because her martyrdom was cause for celebration, not mourning.  How do we celebrate the giving of one's life as testimony to the Good News?

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