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The Unfinished Business (10 of 11)
Martin Luther King Day Service
Series: Patriotic and Special Occasions
January 15, 2006
Two of my favorite Bible stories offer a fitting backdrop for today's service. Each story provides an example of courage against the odds. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew both of these stories well. He often cited the second as a model for his life and legacy. Most of you are familiar with both.
The first is from Esther 4. The young Jewish maiden had only recently been selected as the new wife of the Persian monarch. Mordecai, her uncle, informs her that Haman, an aid to the king, had instigated a plot against her fellow Jews. Mordecai pleads with Esther to intercede before the king, knowing full well it would be a dangerous act. When Esther hesitates, her uncle advises, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14) Speaking out, speaking up for the cause of others. Speaking up when the time is right! That's a calling from God!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life is the story of man who courageously stood up at just the right time. In many respects Dr. King was a man of his times, a man for his times. We too easily forget those days. I lived in the North where the problems were subdued and subtle, but none the less real. In the south of the 50's and 60's, the hatred and bigotry was open and overt.
I recall traveling through the South in the mid-60's with my college basketball team. I had read and heard of segregation. In fact, I grew up in a segregated town. Our segregation grew from ignorance and isolation. No blacks lived in our small rural Illinois community. By all accounts, none were the slightest bit interested in living there. That didn't mean we didn't know prejudice and racial bigotry. There was plenty of it to go around. But on my road trip across Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia in January of 1966, I saw something I had never seen before. For the first time, I witnessed white's only signs posted above lunch counters, drinking fountains, and rest rooms. I returned north bewildered and confused by the silence and apathy of so many who claimed to be followers of Christ.
"In such a time as that" Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped into the leadership of the American Civil Rights movement. The effort had come to a head ten years earlier. On Dec 1, 1955, a young Montgomery, AL woman named Rosa Parks stepped onto a city bus. She sat down gratefully in the first empty seat, her feet tired after a long day. A few stops later a white man demanded that she give up her seat to him and move to the back of the bus "where she belonged." She said she was too tired to move. She was arrested.
Local pastors rallied the community for a citywide bus boycott. They formed what they ca ...
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