In today’s post we go back in the week to the Martin Luther King holiday this past Monday. We opted to post today rather than on Monday to in some way extend the holiday and to honor his life.
As the years go by and the memory of King and the Civil Rights Movement gets reworked, most only think of King in light of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. But King’s vision, especially as he neared the end of his life, was more inclusive, richer, deeper and much more rooted in the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi. He was assassinated as he lent support to the Sanitation Worker’s Strike in Memphis. He was there expanding the umbrella of civil rights to embrace the need to reform the structures that leave the poor and marginalized in our society begging for scraps rather than developing their full potential through the necessary tools like a quality education, health care, and fair lending practices.
At the end of King’s life, many in the Civil Rights Movement had moved away from him. His message had become too challenging; his opposition to the US government’s involvement in the Vietnam War alienated him from his political allies. When the single bullet took his life on that early evening in Memphis, King was at a low point, he was tired, and struggling with the weight of the challenge before him. We often forget this as we celebrate the man and sugarcoat his message.
Which gets us to our point today. King’s life and work was grounded in his faith. His strength came from his surrender to love. It was in that dance and struggle to surrender to something higher that he found the ability to move ahead, reject fear, and envision a better way. How did he do this? How did he accomplish so much in just 39 years of life? We know that it wasn’t easy and straightforward and without mistakes. He was not a saint. He was a human being. Yet, he had a compass that served him well. And we remind ourselves today to look for guiding principles like he did.
A year prior to his death, he preached a sermon called “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.” In that text he lays out a map of sorts for all who would listen. Using the mystical image of the New Jerusalem from The Book of Revelation, he gave his congregation then and us now three major guide posts we can still use–length, breadth, and height. In a masterful use of language, he argues that a complete life has to have three dimensions: self-love, love of neighbor, and love of God.
We are linking the sermon here and encouraging you to read. If your faith is different than King’s, reinterpret the third dimension. We know that the word “God” for some is problematic. Don’t get stuck there. We offer this piece in the same way we encourage you to join the Green Challenge. We do so because we believe that feeding the heart-mind is as important as feeding the body. Sometimes we need a story more than food to stay alive. Sometimes we need to be reminded that not all is lost.
Carlos and Maribel