We have some awesome articles on The Celebration in honor of Black History Month. We will be “reblogging” them over the next few days so that our new readers can find them more easily! Enjoy and Celebrate!!!
Posts tagged ‘Martin Luther King’
Of course I didn’t know the man. To be honest, my knowledge of his life is not extensive. I know the things most people know; I’ve read several of his speeches and watched a few documentaries. I’ve collected a number of children’s books about him and his life’s work. No, I don’t know for sure that what I’m about to say is exactly right. But I think it is…
“No, no, no. It’s not about me, you see. It’s about all who have given. It’s about all who have suffered. It’s about all who have paid the price and, against all hope, have laid down their lives for the sake of others. Do not focus today on a man, but let your hearts be spurred on by the memories of the multitude who have laid aside differences to make our world a better place for each and every one of us.”
“Think today of the slaves and the abolitionists who sang songs of freedom together and prayed for a day to come. Surely they had a dream, just as you and I have a dream. Think today on the Quaker friends who risked their lives to find a way through the wilderness for their black brothers and sisters to go free, for when I came to the mountain top to look over into the promised land, I stood in the footsteps of those who had seen a glimpse long before my time had come. Sing today the praises of Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Fred Shuttleworth who played their part without glory or recognition. Give honor to every man, woman, and child who has lifted his or her voice up and boldly declared, ‘We shall be one!’”
“Today, my friends, is not about one man. Today is a day for us all. For whatever affects one of us directly, affects all of us indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.* We could not have come to this place without each other. We cannot go where we must go without each other. This is a day for us all.”
“So do not let today be a celebration of one man, alone. Let today be a day of celebration that, as a people, we are not where we once were. Let today be a day of reflection as we pause to consider things that we could do differently. Let today be a day of repentance as we acknowledge those things that have kept us from having love in our hearts for all of our brethren. Let today be a day of action so our children know a world that is still better than the one in which we live. Let today be OUR day.”
As I said… I don’t know the man, but I have seen the content of his character. He lent his voice to the people, but he knew he was not speaking for himself, alone. He knew he was only a vessel. I honor him today by honoring those for whom he served. I honor him today by honoring the God to whom he served. I thank God that the work of Martin Luther King goes on today… not because it was his work, but because it IS God’s work.
*Direct quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
(See also our Celebration Post called Excerpts from Paul’s Letter to American Christians, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. )
Mahalia Jackson was born to a Baptist minister in a small town in Louisiana. She started singing in her church choir at the age of 4 and went on to become internationally known as the First Lady of Gospel Music. Always mindful that her ability came from God, she was driven to use her gift to spread the message of His love to the nations.
Mahalia’s faithfulness to God opened doors of favor for her. Her career spanned 45 years and included 4 Grammy’s and over 30 albums. Her hit song, Move on Up a Little Higher was the first gospel record to appear on Billboard’s Top 100 list, bringing her national recognition. Other firsts for Jackson include having the first national gospel radio program, being the first gospel singer to appear on the Ed Sullivan show, being the first gospel act to perform at Carnegie Hall, and having the first gospel television show on CBS. At the peak of her career, the local churches where her career was born could no longer afford her performance fees, so she often performed for them free of charge.
As a Kingdom Ambassador, Mahalia used her popularity to call attention to the Civil Rights Movement, singing at the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and at many of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s rallies. Five years after singing at Dr. King’s historic I Have a Dream speech, Jackson performed Take My Hand, Precious Lord at his funeral.
Despite pressure from her record label to add more secular music to her albums, Mahalia refused to ever perform anything but religious music, saying, “When you sing gospel, you have a feeling there is a cure for what’s wrong. But when you are through with the blues, you’ve got nothing to rest on.” She also refused to perform in surroundings she considered inappropriate, turning down many offers to sing in Las Vegas.
Mahalia Jackson lived her dream until the very end of her life. She was a powerful voice for the Kingdom of God. Mahalia was more than a famous singer; she was a savvy business owner with many real estate holdings, and she was very involved in politics and international relations, singing at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and performing by request for the royal families of Spain, France, Denmark and England. She was truly an Ambassador for the Cause of Christ, using her voice to proclaim His goodness to all nations.
I remember sitting in my 10th grade World History class and looking at Mrs. Strickland as if she had horns growing out of her head. History seemed to be absolutely pointless. From where I was sitting, in order to make history you had to be old, White and dead. Well, by the process of elimination, history was not looking so good for me! I was not old or White and, although dying for a greater cause and all seemed like a noble idea, I was not willing to sacrifice my short sixteen years for earthworms and caskets.
It’s weird to me that people associate history with death, like you can’t create history or do anything meaningful without dying. Look at Martin Luther King, Jr. Look at Abraham Lincoln. Look at School House Rock. All dead. Even in questioning the youth of G.U.T.S., our teen ministry, I was blown away by how “death-centered” our world has become. When asked what God had done for them, many stated “He saved me from dying a horrible death,” and “He didn’t kill me.” I wanted to know details, so I asked, “How did He do it?” and was left with an awkward silence. WHAT?!?!
It’s sad if you really think about it. Even the church world is fixated on death. Flying away to heaven, fire-insurance from Hell, dying and being with Jesus, heaven, angles in the clouds, and living in glory sounds much better than “He saved me from dying,” but it means the same thing. In fact, I see it like this: everyone is watching a movie and concentrating so hard on the END that they miss the story before it. People are so focused on “death” that no one is LIVING a life worth living.
History is only made when someone is living purposely. Death marks the end of a person’s ability to create new history. I have witnessed history occurring countless times in my life. I’ve survived some very dire circumstances and lived to tell about it. Some call that my testimony, but I call it my history. It is proof that I am abundantly living the life Christ has provided for me.
What history are you making?
As we pause today to celebrate the life and legacy of a great man, let’s not forget the crux of his message: that Christians in America still have a long way to go in order to look and act like the Church in the New Testament. Read this excerpt and let it challenge you to your core… then shake yourself and purpose to be a transformer in this present generation of Christianity. ~The Celebration
Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 4 November 1956.
I can imagine the Apostle Paul writing a letter to American Christians in 1956 A.D. And here is the letter as it stands before me:
I, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to you who are in America, Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
For many years I have longed to be able to come to see you. I have heard so much of you and of what you are doing. I have heard of the fascinating and astounding advances that you have made in the scientific realm…I have heard of your great medical advances, which have resulted in the curing of many dread plagues and diseases, and thereby prolonged your lives and made for greater security and physical well-being. All of that is marvelous.
But America, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress. It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture. Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but through your moral and spiritual genius you have failed to make of it a brotherhood. So America, I would urge you to keep your moral advances abreast with your scientific advances.
Let me rush on to say something about the church. Americans, I must remind you, as I have said to so many others, that the church is the Body of Christ. So when the church is true to its nature it knows neither division nor disunity. But I am disturbed about what you are doing to the Body of Christ. They tell me that in America you have within Protestantism more than two hundred and fifty six denominations. The tragedy is not so much that you have such a multiplicity of denominations, but that most of them are warring against each other with a claim to absolute truth. You must come to see that God is neither a Baptist nor a Methodist; He is neither a Presbyterian nor a Episcopalian. God is bigger than all of our denominations. If you are to be true witnesses for Christ, you must come to see that America.
There is another thing that disturbs me to no end about the American church. You have a white church and you have a Negro church. You have allowed segregation to creep into the doors of the church. How can such a division exist in the true Body of Christ? You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing praises, you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America. They tell me that there is more integration in the entertaining world and other secular agencies than there is in the Christian church. How appalling that is.
So Americans I must urge you to get rid of every aspect of segregation. The broad universalism standing at the center of the gospel makes both the theory and practice of segregation morally unjustifiable. Segregation is a blatant denial of the unity which we all have in Christ. The underlying philosophy of Christianity is diametrically opposed to the underlying philosophy of segregation.
I must bring my writing to a close now. Timothy is waiting to deliver this letter, and I must take leave for another church. But just before leaving, I must say to you, as I said to the church at Corinth, that I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world.
So American Christians, you may have the gift of prophecy and understanding all mysteries. You may be able to break into the storehouse of nature and bring out many insights that men never dreamed were there. You may ascend to the heights of academic achievement, so that you will have all knowledge. You may give great gifts to charity. You may tower high in philanthropy. But if you have not love, it means nothing.
I must say goodbye now. I hope this letter will find you strong in the faith. It is probable that I will not get to see you in America, but I will meet you in God’s eternity. And now unto him who is able to keep us from falling, and lift us from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy, to him be power and authority, forever and ever. Amen.
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