Written by Pepe Demarest, Pastoral Intern
Although Minnesota has been celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day for almost 40 years, this past summer has shown that we are still a long way from honoring his ideals. Here at Christ the King, we have a deep history of racial justice concerns, but like the nation, our concern didn’t always lead to more justice. After the killing of George Floyd, Christ the King began seeking new ways to engage in racial equity work, we called it “The One Thing” and these included ways to get involved, ways to donate, and ways to learn. Some members met to discuss “Dialogues on Race”, and Dear Church: A Love letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S. by the Reverend Lenny Duncan. From those groups a new Racial Justice Working Group was formed. Throughout this year of discovery and self-examination, there has been a yearning for action; Martin Luther King Jr. addressed his church’s yearning for action in this sermon.
“God set forth his guidelines. And through his prophets, and above all through his son Jesus Christ, he said that, ‘There are some things that my church must do. There are some guidelines that my church must follow.’ And if we in the church don't want the funds of grace cut off from the divine treasury, we've got to follow the guidelines.
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. These are the guidelines.
You see, the church is not a social club, although some people think it is. They get caught up in their exclusivism, and they feel that it’s a kind of social club with a thin veneer of religiosity, but the church is not a social club. But in the final analysis the church has a purpose. The church is dealing with man's ultimate concern. And therefore it has certain guidelines that it must follow.
Let us first think of the fact that if the church is following its guidelines, it seeks to heal the broken-hearted. Now there is probably no human condition more tantalizing than a broken heart. You see, broken-heartedness is not a physical condition; it’s a condition of spiritual exhaustion. I would say broken-heartedness comes basically from the trying experience of disappointment.
The church must say to men and woman that Good Friday is a fact of life. The church must say to people that failure is a fact of' life. Some people are only conditioned to success. They are only conditioned to fulfillment.... But the church must tell (people) that Good Friday’s as much a fact of life as Easter; failure is as much a fact of life as success; disappointment is as much a fact of life as fulfillment.
Secondly, when the church is true to its guidelines, it sets out to preach deliverance to them that are captive. This is the role of the church: to free people. This merely means to free those who are slaves. You have a group who would really like to do something about racial injustice, but they are afraid of social, political, and economic reprisals so they end up silent. And the preacher never says anything to lift their souls and free them from that fear. And so they end up captive.
These are our guidelines, and if we will only follow the guidelines, we will be ready for God’s kingdom, we will be doing what God’s church is called to do. We won’t be a little social club. We won’t be a little entertainment center. But we’ll be about the serious business of bringing God’s kingdom to this earth.”
Delivered June 5, 1966