By Ray McGovern, Jan. 23, 2021
This year the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday (born on Jan, 15, 1929) was overshadowed by the violence of Jan. 6 at the Capitol — the kind he tried so hard to prevent and the kind that had him murdered by in 1968 by the KKK in cahoots with government “security” forces.
The following is from Franciscan Richard Rohr, leader of the Center for Action and Contemplation ( https://cac.org/ ). Rohr reports:
CAC faculty member Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes calls Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King “a great contemplative, one who used the spiritual essence of nonviolence as a tool for liberating the social order and the spiritual authority of a denigrated people.”
Dr. Holmes earlier wrote: Liberation requires individuals willing to stand when no one else will, to sit when others are threatening you with harm, to embrace an outsider in full view of an insider, to proclaim the wisdom of the ages. [Emphasis added.]
She shared with us this prayer of gratitude for King’s life and work, which is also of petition—that we might continue God’s work of liberation for all.
The prayer below is from James Forbes Jr. of Riverside Church in New York:
O God of Love, Power and Justice, who wills the freedom and fulfillment of all your children. We thank you for the constancy of your loving kindness and tender mercies toward us. Especially on this day as we celebrate the birthday and life of your servant and prophet, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We are reminded that in every age you raise up seers and sayers and doers of justice. We marvel at the way by which you shaped a young black boy from Georgia into a towering figure of his time—to awaken the conscience of the nations, to rekindle a passion for freedom, equality, and peace; to redirect the traffic of human affairs from the back alley of bigotry toward the grand concourse of courage and compassion.
We stand in awe at the marvelous networking by which you built a movement around a man of vision. It included blacks and whites, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, conservatives and progressives, rich and poor, business and labor. This “coalition of conscience” dedicated itself to the proposition that the American dream of freedom and equality could be made real through courageous action in a spirit of love, in pursuit of human dignity for all. This dignity includes all who suffer from homelessness, joblessness, purposelessness, carelessness, hopelessness.
Because our needs are so great today, and your care so constant, we know that you are rebuilding the network of compassion around new visionaries who you have assembled for this hour. Surprise us with the discovery of how much power we have to make a difference in our day:
—A difference in the way citizens meet, greet, respect, and protect the rights of each other.
—A difference in the breadth of our vision of what is possible in humanization, reconciliation, and equalization of results in our great city.
—A difference in the way government, business, and labor can work together, for justice and social enrichment.
—A difference in our response to the needy, and a difference in our appreciation for those who give of themselves for the surviving and thriving of our beautiful people.
Use this season of celebration to spark new hope and stir up our passion for new possibilities. Make compassion and the spirit of sacrifice to be the new mark of affluence of character.
Strengthen us to face reality and to withstand the rigor of tough times in the anticipation of a bright side beyond the struggle. Inspire, empower, and sustain us until we reach the mountaintop, and see that future for which our hearts yearn.
This is our fervent and sincere prayer. Amen.
[James Alexander Forbes, Jr., “O God of Love, Power and Justice,” Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans, ed. James Melvin Washington (HarperPerennial: 1994), 260‒261.]
Jim Forbes used to come down from New York to speak and inspire us at the Servant Leadership School of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington. Ray was co-director of the school from 1998 to 2004.
Please see the next post on this site, in which Congresswoman (“go back where you came from”) Ilhan Omar is shown to be a worthy follower of Dr. King.