“Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King, Jr
This past Friday, the church observed the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle, a day to commemorate Peter’s life and example, in particular his confession of Jesus as Messiah, Son of the Living God.
On Monday, our nation (and world) observed the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., a day to honor the fortitude and courage of this beloved saint, who sparked real change to the civil rights movement.
While they are both lifted up around the same time each year, I realized this time around just how much these men have in common. On the whole, Martin and Peter are both bold and audacious, full of vigor and passion, and willing to put their lives on the line for what they believe as truth.
Saint Peter was the first to claim Jesus as the one anointed to save the world; the prophet spoken of from ancient times. With miracles and healings and the casting out of demons, the reputation of Jesus had begun to spread throughout the region, causing many to speculate on his nature and identity. Some were saying he was John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But Peter, the oft outspoken disciple, conjured up his truth within, claiming what others were not yet ready to claim.
Saint Martin was the catalyst for racial equality in so many ways, using charisma and drive to organize hundreds of thousands of people in his tragically brief life of 39 years. King’s nonviolent demonstration in protest of Rosa Parks being told to move to the back of the bus ignited a 382-day boycott, culminating in a 1956 Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation on public buses. Staged sit-ins of white-run diners in Birmingham led to violent attacks by police, landing King in jail. From here, Saint Martin wrote his famous letter, garnering mention and support from President John F. Kennedy. Some 250,000 folks showed up for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August of 1963, where King laid out his vision of a country where all were regarded with equality, regardless.
In one of his letters, Saint Peter exhorted the elders to tend the flock of God in their charge, exercising oversight with responsibility, as God would have them do it. He was not seeking fame and fortune, but the “crown of glory that never fades away” (1 Peter 5:4). For his zeal, Peter was crucified in Rome in 64 A.D., the same fate his Messiah suffered some 35 years earlier.
In what came to be known as Letter from Birmingham Jail, Saint Martin said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” King’s demands, while nonviolent and offered with compassion, led to his assassination on April 4, 1968, in a Memphis hotel. Over 50 years later, we still remember his death, seeking to uphold his call for respecting the equality of every human being.
The ability and valor to name the truth was a defining quality held by both men. May we all be so bold and willing to speak, even before our culture is quite ready to listen.
To make sure that you don’t miss the Chaplain’s Weekly Blog, subscribe by going to your SETTINGS in myBERKELEY and under Notification select the Edit Options for News Posted and turn on the notifications for Chaplain’s Blog.