Cities across the nation are kicking off the annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prophetic momentum is rarely sustained without an engine of reminder, an engine of hope. Thus each year we recall his liberative narrative and consider what of his vision is yet to be realized. The community celebration of Kansas City, MO, is using a text from Habakkuk as its theme:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it (2:2)
Like the prophet Habakkuk, King wrestled with the challenge of believing in God’s ultimate power of justice while living in a world that appears to be overwhelmingly unjust. The prophet does not mince words: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?” (1:2) and “I will keep watch to see what the Lord will say to me, and what God will answer concerning my complaint” (2:1). Can you imagine the modern prophet, King, having this kind of conversation, indeed, debate with God? I surely can. Steeped in the cadences of prophetic language of the Bible, he kept watch to see what God would say to him. Like prophets of old, he most likely had an intimate enough relationship with God to deliver an earful. Truly he protested what he saw in the world as being incongruous with the will of God.
We honor Martin Luther King, Jr., because we believe that he received vision, made it plain, and gave his very life to it. He believed in God’s trustworthiness even when the evidence of such was delayed. It was this trust that prompted him to act, rather than simply waiting for divine intervention. He saw his vocation as an instrument of God’s action in the world—a drum major for justice. He understood the power of concrete, incremental steps that encourage hope. Making plain what was needed and how it could be achieved moved the journey for civil rights forward. Fulfilling the rest of his dream Is not only the work of the first black president, but the work of his and future generations. We are to continue as “runners” who enact God’s justice in the world, “for there is still a vision for the appointed time…” (2:3).
Molly T. Marshall
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