I made myself a promise when I entered ministry that I would not preach on MLK Sunday. I did this for several reasons, the most important of which is that I don’t believe that it is right for a black minister in a predominantly white denomination to have to do race work and the emotional labor that comes with it on a day meant to honor the work of a great black leader. I believe it should be a time of reverence and reflection.
That said…I have preached every MLK Sunday since arriving at First Parish in Cambridge. I have done this willingly. This past Sunday in particular was very important for me. I felt that I needed to put a message out in the world that spoke to the idea of belonging and there are elements of Dr. King’s final Sunday sermon (Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, March 31, 1968) and the way that he addresses war and poverty that resonate deeply with me on this topic.
This sermon isn’t perfect, yet it received a very strong response from the congregation. I suspect it is because like many of us, my congregation is desperately trying to understand how we belong in this conflicted time. Despite its flaws, I am proud of this sermon, proud of the context in which I was able to preach it and proud of being a black pastor warmed by the the vast light and legacy of someone like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. May it be so.
Nonviolence or Nonexistence, MLK Sunday, January 19, 2019 – ALD