Summary: Third sermon in series on Lord’s Prayer based on booklet by Partners in Ministry.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
June 12, 2005
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
"Agreement with God"
Martin Luther King, Jr. whizzed through elementary school and high school and began college at the age of 15. He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to study, but he was sure of one thing: he didn’t want to become a Baptist clergyman like his dad. That changed after two years of college, and following graduation from Morehouse College in Atlanta he enrolled at Crozer Seminary, then in Philadelphia.
From the outset of his seminary career, King knew that he could never be “a spectator in the race problem” [Stephen Oates, Let the Trumpet Sound, p. 21]. He believed that his calling was to serve God and humanity from the pulpit, and in Ph.D. studies at Boston University, King’s vocation became even clearer. Although several colleges offered him attractive positions, Martin believed that he was to be a pastor before an academician.
After stops in Philadelphia and Boston, King wasn’t sure that he wanted to return to the deep south, but he did finally accept a call to become the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. It was 1954.
African-American dissatisfaction with segregation was reaching new heights, and a young Baptist minister in Montgomery, Alabama was feeling the discontent of his people. Young Martin Luther King, Jr. could not believe that it was God’s will for anyone to live in a separate and unequal society. He believed that freedom and justice were God-ordained rights for all men and women, and he was committed to working for these rights for all people.
Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God to this world, and King saw it as his personal responsibility to work for freedom, justice and equality now. Racism and racial inequality were blights on our nation, and they could not be tolerated by God’s people. King’s work was kingdom work.
Jesus began His public ministry, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). So, it shouldn’t surprise us that when we look at the heart of the prayer that He taught His followers we find the following petition about God’s kingdom:
v. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus instructs His followers to pray, “Your kingdom come… “
In the prayer that Jesus taught His followers is the petition for God’s kingdom to come to earth. The goods of godly society are not just a future hope. They are to be a present reality. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this.
One Sunday morning in 1965 while Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Washington D.C., 525 men, women and children were led by his associates Hosea Williams of Atlanta and John Lewis, now a congressman from Atlanta on a march along Jefferson Davis Highway outside Selma, Alabama. At the Edmund Pettis Bridge the demonstrators were met by state troopers.
As the marchers approached the bridge, an officer spoke to them through a bullhorn. “Turn around and go back to your church! You will not be allowed to march any further! You’ve got two minutes to disperse!”
One minute later, according to the march leaders, the officer ordered the troops to drive back the demonstrators. The state troopers went at the crowd with billy clubs flailing, hitting anyone who was in their way as they sought to push back the marchers. They swung their clubs at men and women and managed to fracture John Lewis’s skull. The confrontation was caught on film by news crews and broadcast all over the world. The crowd retreated that day to the Brown Chapel, the place where they had started.
The demonstrators were blungeoned and battered, but they were not beaten. You could say that in the face of the armed power of the state they didn’t have a chance, but you would be wrong. Through their prayerful nonviolence they galvanized a nation and led to change. Don’t ever forget that it was because of state-sanctioned violence against Jesus the Christ that we are here today. The cross was a sign of defeat to Christ’s enemies and it is a sign of victory for all who know Jesus as Resurrected Savior and Lord.
Days later, 1,500 gathered at Brown Chapel as Martin Luther King declared that they would defy a court injunction and march down Jefferson Davis Highway toward the state capitol in Montgomery. As the marchers proceeded down the highway, a U.S. Marshall read a restraining order barring them from continuing their pilgrimage. Major Cloud said through a bullhorn, “You are ordered to stop and stand where you are. This march will not continue.” “We have a right to march, replied Martin Luther King, Jr. “There is also a right to march on Montgomery.”