Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "We are called..."

Bishop Delores J. Williamston
January 16, 2023

Greetings, sisters and brothers, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

On January 16, 2023, the third Monday of January, we remember and observe the national holiday for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., famed civil rights and national leader, who was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. 

In fact, this year marks the 40th year since the legislation establishing the observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a national holiday in 1983, went into effect. 

I was three years old when Dr. King was assassinated and learned later the significant and necessary work of Dr. King and all those who marched, fought, and died to secure the civil rights of Black people and all people.

Yet, Dr. King was not alone in this work toward the freedom and civil rights of all people. Dr. King was not alone then and is not alone today. 

As I think about Dr. King's life, I think about the countless number of people who shared in his vision and helped in the work that sustains us today. 

Leaders like Representative John Lewis, who marched with Dr. King, led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus bridge and would later help end legalized racial segregation in the United States until his death in July 2020.

Today, God is calling you and me to put on the shoes of the gospel of peace and carry the hope found in Jesus Christ out into our neighborhoods and into our communities. 
Bishop Delores J. Williamston

I think about Fannie Lou Hamer, who, in the nineteen-sixties, fought for voting rights in her home state of Mississippi, becoming a powerful voice in the Freedom Summer activities and would later fight for change and encourage women to engage in local leadership. 

And I think about those whose lives there were tragically cut short because of prejudice and racism. Such as Viola Liuzzo, who left her home and life in Detroit, Michigan, to fight for the civil rights of all people. And James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who, in the summer of 1964, four years before King's assassination, joined Freedom Summer 1964 to register African-Americans to vote.

Or Rev. T.J. Jemison, a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with Dr. King. Rev. Jemison would eventually organize a 1953 bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which served as the model for the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott after Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, changed the world by refusing to give up her seat on a city bus during her commute home from her job at a local department store. 

These are only a few names of many others to remember on the King holiday.

Yet amid celebrations, parades, and neighborhood work projects, this federal holiday is more than a day off. It is a national day of remembering and intentionally serving our neighbor. 

As I reflect on those who came before me, I also reflect on the work that, sadly, is still before us. At times, that work can seem daunting and challenging. Yet, we lean on hope, a hope that was the life and ministry of Jesus, a hope that was boldly pronounced by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captive
     and recovery of sight to the blind,
         to set free those who are oppressed,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In this new year and on this 40th celebration of the observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I remind us that God’s Spirit is upon us as Christ's disciples.

Friends, we are called to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release for those held captive, recovery of sight for the blind, and freedom for all who are oppressed!

You and I are called by God to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and bear witness to the truth that God is with us.

Today, God is calling you and me to put on the shoes of the gospel of peace and carry the hope found in Jesus Christ out into our neighborhoods and into our communities. 

Today, God is calling us to be the change we hope to see in the world.

Let it be so!

Bishop Delores J. Williamston

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