Martin Luther King

The Clarion Midnight Cry

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In honor and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – 15 January 1929 to 4 April 1968

Midnight is considered to be the darkest hour of the night. It is that moment in time when the previous day slips quietly into the annals of history, and the pages of the volume are turned as the sun begins to rise and a new day dawns. With the dawning of a new day comes new hopes and aspirations in conjunction with new challenges to face, and new obstacles to overcome.

For some, midnight can also be considered a time of utter desolation and solitude in their lives. To them the world appears to be in a chaotic state of flux. It appears that the hands of time are forever standing still and it is forever midnight on many levels. Because of this, their vision is obscured, and they are unable to see the new day dawning just over the horizon. It is midnight.

For far too long many people have traveled down the rough and dusty highways of life with their heads hanging down, and their hearts heavy with the doubts and fears of there being any hope in the world.

For far too long some have listened intently to the voices of all the naysayers and ne’er-do-wells of the world who have not only tried, but in many cases have succeeded in thoroughly convincing them that they are just a bunch of worthless nobodies, going nowhere. They have convinced some that what might have once been is the way that things will always be. And so, feeling all alone, rejected, depressed, and defeated, some have chosen to live a life of seclusion and to slowly drown in a sea of deafening silence. It is midnight.

The hour has now come my friends when we must arise from the ashes of life, lift up our heads, and raise our voices to let the bearers of negativism know that they are nothing more than perpetual liars. Now is the hour to serve them notice that although they may think or believe that they represent the greater voice, they are indeed the minority whisper. Now is the hour to let them know that what might have once been, no longer has to be, nor will it be.

We need to pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps and with clarion voices lift the rafters as we proclaim in jubilation, “Henceforth and no further!” Now is the time to rise up and send a very distinct, simple, and clear message to those who would otherwise try to keep us down and kick us around that we are not just a bunch of nobodies, going nowhere – we are children of Almighty God, and we are somebody going somewhere.

We are not in this world to live in servitude to any man, or to bow down to any man as if he were our king. It is time, and indeed the hour has come, when we need to lift our voices together, like the three Hebrew children who were thrown into the fiery furnace, and unashamed and unequivocally declare that we have but one True Master – one True Lord – one True King – and it is He and He alone whom we will bow down to and worship and none other.

Yes, my friends, it may seem to be midnight, but take heart and be of good courage, a new day is just in sight.

~ Keith Lionel Brown
18 January 2015

The Tyranny of Violence

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Martin Luther King Jr. on Violence

Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. ~ Matthew 5:43-48

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – The Drum Major Instinct

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.“The Drum Major Instinct” was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final sermon to his congregation at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on 4 February 1968. Ironically, and perhaps even prophetically, in this sermon Dr. King speaks of his own funeral services.

Two months later, at 6:01 p.m. on 4 April 1968, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was hit by a sniper’s bullet. He had been standing on the balcony in front of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, when, without warning, he was shot. The .30-caliber rifle bullet entered King’s right cheek, traveled through his neck, and finally stopped at his shoulder blade. He was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 PM.

Two services were held for Dr. King in Atlanta on April 9. The first funeral was at 10:30 a.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both he and his father had served as pastors for many years. Since it could only hold 1,300 people, attendance was restricted to family, friends, distinguished guests and members of the congregation. A second service was held for the public in the quadrangle of Morehouse College, Dr. King’s Alma Mater, later that afternoon. Numerous tributes to his life were given at both events. [1]

The text of this sermon can be found here.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. : The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life

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Almost exactly a year before he was assassinated on 4 April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a stirring sermon at the New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois on Sunday, 9 April 1967. Dr. King preached that day about “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life“.

In this ageless sermon, Dr. King referred to the three dimensions of life as the Length, Breadth, and Height of a life. These three dimensions represent an inward concern for one’s own personal welfare – ends and ambitions, an outward concern for others, and an upward reach toward God.

Text and audio of this speech available at: The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life

The Parable of the Street Sweeper

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Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the clarion voice of the American Civil Rights Movement, was assassinated on the evening of Thursday, 4 April 1968, at the young age of 39 years, while standing on the balcony of his room (room 306) at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee. He was a man of vision and determination that never stopped dreaming of what could be. As a Baptist minister, he taught Christian values to the community. He was charismatic and had a powerful way of speaking and getting his message across. Having spent thirteen years of his life dedicated to non-violent protest, his voice was silenced by one final act of violence as a sniper’s bullet would claim his life.

The Street SweeperSix months prior to his death, on Thursday, 26 October 1967, Dr. King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He began his remarks that day by asking the students what has since proved to be a timely question. The question that was put before the students that day was, “What is your life’s blueprint?” His message was based on the premise that no matter what a person’s lot may be in life, he should always strive to be the best at what he does. He encouraged the students by telling them, “And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better”.

To further illustrate his point, Dr. King used the example of a street sweeper. He said:

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Dr. King’s message was not just for the students at Barratt Junior High School on that particular day in 1967, but the principles that he taught can be applied to our times as well.

For example, there is a person who has a job that he absolutely does not like. He wakes up each morning, rolls out of bed, gets dressed, and complains the entire time about how lousy his job is, and how he is not looking forward to another day at the office. Once he gets to work, he spends the entire day constantly watching the clock waiting in great anticipation for the moment when he can finally flee from his misery and return home. When he gets home he spends the evening complaining about how miserable his day was and the fact that he hates his job. The next morning he gets up and starts the cycle all over again, never seeming to find an end to his misery and woe.

Now compare this worker to Dr. King’s street sweeper. There is no doubt that he may have aspirations of a better job, but he understands that at this time in his life his job is to be a street sweeper. Each morning he wakes up, gets out of bed, gets dressed, and prepares for the day ahead. He is thankful that he has a job and that he is able to make money to be able to take care of his needs. He shows up for work on time every morning and gives nothing less than his best in completing the tasks that he is given. He not only does a good job, but he is so passionate about what he does that he is determined to be the best street sweeper that ever lived. When the work day is over, he goes home with a sense of satisfaction that not only did he do the best job that he could possibly do, but on this particular day he was the best that has ever been at his job. He is happy with his job and happy with his life. He can rest peacefully at night knowing that whatever he has to do, he does it “as if God Almighty called [him] at this particular moment in history to do it”.

The major difference between these two workers is their attitude. The first worker has a negative attitude about everything and thus is a constant complainer. He allows misery and woe to fill and define his life. The street sweeper accepts his lot in life and has a positive attitude that things will get better in time and some day he may have a better job. Although he may not think his job to be as significant as some others, he is determined to give it his all and believes in his heart that “the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better”.

The first worker may end up working at the same job his entire life without ever being promoted to a better position within the company. The future of the street sweeper; however, is promising. One day a manager or supervisor may give notice to his passion for hard work and promote him to a lead position. Because of his passion to do the best job that he can in the new position as well, he may soon find himself being promoted to a manager or supervisor position.

Even if the street sweeper never climbs the economic ladder higher than his self-made position as the best street sweeper that ever lived, he is happy and successful throughout his life because of his positive attitude and the passion to do whatever his calling may be to the best of his ability.

What lessons can we learn from the street sweeper? In the words of Dr. King, “If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are”.

These principles not only apply to our employment, but also to our family life, and our everyday life in the community as well. Whatever situation in life we may find ourselves in, let us learn to accept who we are and where we are at this particular moment in our lives. Let us develop a passion for everything that we do, and regardless of the struggles and adversities that we may face, never give in and never give up. Let us press forward with the attitude that winners never quit and quitters never win. Let us resolve that from this day forward, no matter what our lot in life may be, we will be the best at whatever we do.

This is an audio clip from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s message titled “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” delivered at New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois, on 9 April 1967.