This coming Monday in the United States, we will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a federal holiday and, as of the year 2000, every state recognizes it. Established in 1983, it is the newest addition to the annual holiday lineup. King is the only American besides George Washington recognized with a national holiday. For many, it’s the day off we’ve been looking forward to ever since our Christmas and New Year’s extended absences.
This holiday should be a big deal for churches. In my opinion, outside of Christmas and Easter, no other holiday represents the heart of God so much. Unfortunately, I think the pace of Christmas and New Year’s is just too much for churches to recover from in order to swing back around for Martin Luther King Jr. Day a few weeks later.
This day is not just about racial equality. This day is about justice. And this world is full of people who need it. Just as when King used them in his messages, may these words from Amos 5:21-24 (The Message) compel us to action:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice–oceans of it.
I want fairness–rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”
Dr. King drives the point home further for churches, long before The Message version was even around!
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travellers at midnight.”
It’s midnight. Who is coming to your church for light and bread?