The “Politic of Despair”

A message from The Rev. Daniel Kline:

On Sunday, March 31st in 1968, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the great saints of the 20th Century, delivered a sermon at The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. It would be the last Sunday sermon he preached before being martyred in Memphis at the age of 39. The title of that sermon is, “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution” and it was addressed particularly to Episcopalians and universally to the nation and the world as a whole. It has stood the test of time. As such, it is appropriate for us to ponder.

Some of King’s most memorable quotes can be attributed to this sermon:

“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish as fools.”
“We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“We must face the sad fact that at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, when we sing ‘In Christ there is no East or West,’ we stand in the most segregated hour of America.”
In a week where we have witnessed insurrection and impeachment, where the questions of cowardice, expediency, and vanity have threatened to drown out the question of conscience, where the triple threats of racism, greed, and violence have once again opened their wide mouths in the American narrative, we are desperate for the wisdom of this great saint. Martin Luther King Jr. Day could not have come at a more appropriate time. While we do not long for the day of the LORD, we thank God for grace to get through it, transformed by the liberating power of Christ.

It is easy in these days to give in to the “politic of despair,” as King calls it. It is easy to lose hope. How did King persevere and keep his eye on the prize in the midst of such overwhelming opposition? How do we persevere in the face of such national strife and bigotry? How do we confront the shameful, persistent presence of racism with truth and love when there is so much hatred and violence and Mars, the god of war, looms on the horizon?

We’re going to explore the wisdom of King’s final Sunday sermon as a way into the spiritual power that keeps us carrying on this weekend. We’re going to learn how to stay spiritually awake in the middle of the great moments of history. Look for King’s influence on my homily. Then, during our Adult Forum at 11AM on Zoom, we are going to watch the recording of King’s sermon together and spend some time afterward discussing the meaning for our lives today. I strongly urge all of us to take advantage of that opportunity to communally listen to one who “being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). Perhaps we will find some spiritual truths to anchor us in what looks to be a tumultuous week ahead. If we can’t find them in the words of Dr. King, we will have trouble finding them elsewhere.