This post was originally given as a keynote address at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by the Covert Ministerial Alliance on January 15, 2017. Some changes have been made for the nuances of print media. I would like to thank President Rev. Knox and the Covert Ministerial Alliance, Covert Public Schools and School Board and Superintendent Dr. “Wife” Morehead for this opportunity.
It is my honor to recognize Rev. King tonight. In the beginning days of my ministry 22 years ago, every sermon would include 3 things 1) the Bible, 2) a MLK Quote book, 3) a Song book. I believe that is a pretty good formula for life. Start with a foundation of God’s living word, stay grounded to our history by remembering our heroic leaders, and keep singing together as a community. So tonight I am going to share some Scriptures of God’s Word, quote some inspirational leaders, and share songs of unity.
In celebration of Rev. King’s life, our theme is “Undefeated” based on the song written by my nephew, two-time Grammy nominated, Tauren Wells. The song states in the opening verse:
Struck down, persecuted
Under pressure, man that’s how we do it
We at war, we at war
But have you even looked at the scoreboard?
W’s all day, whatchu scared for?
Scared for, scared for
Ain’t nothing coming that we ain’t prepared for
The Apostle Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” Paul is simply saying, we have had our challenges, but with Christ, we are still undefeated.
Our key scripture for tonight is Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” From this scripture we learn three things:
1) THE WEAPONS ARE REAL – “No weapon that is formed”
In his sermon, “Rediscovering Lost Values,” at the Second Baptist Church in Detroit on February 28, 1954, Rev. King stated,
“There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong. I don’t think we have to look too far to see that. The trouble isn’t so much that we don’t know enough, but it’s as if we aren’t good enough. The trouble isn’t so much that our scientific genius lags behind, but our moral genius lags behind. The great problem facing modern man is that, that the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man’s soul. We haven’t learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem. The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we’ve failed to make of it a brotherhood.”
Forty-Nine years after Rev. King’s death, the weapons are still real! The top five current injustices in our current world is:
- 1) Racism – The flames of social tension have rekindled this past decade.
- 2) Unemployment – 8 million Americans still are unemployment, with millions more living beneath their means.
- 3) Domestic Violence – 3.3 million children witness domestic violence each year in the U.S.
- 4) Food and water security – A water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where cost-cutting measures led to tainted drinking water that contained lead and other toxins, affects tens of thousands of Americans.
Sometimes it feels like we’ve taken two steps forward and three steps back sometimes 33 steps back but the important thing is that we keep WALKING, keep LIVING, keep LAUGHING, keep LIFTING, keep LEADING and most of all keep LOVING! The way you break a cycle is keep doing the RIGHT thing in a WRONG world!
2) THE WEAPONS ARE PERSONAL – “against thee”
The injustices that exist today are personal against each one of us that are present today. We must not shovel these injustices off to our parents, governments or the next generation. We must act! The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Yes, Christ gives power to do all things, but He gives US the power to do all things.
We like the “strengtheneth” part of this verse and the “Christ” part. However, we struggle with the “I,” “we,” “us” part. Christ gives us the strength to do all things but he still expects us to sign up for a mentoring program, He has chosen YOU to sponsor students for their various programs, YOU have the privilege to volunteer at the local school or charity, and YOU have the opportunity to give to someone less fortunate than yourself.
Yes, Christ could speak unity and prosperity into existence, but instead, he made this battle personal and expects me and YOU to get involved in the fight and cross the isle and make this personal! Yes you heard me correctly, it’s time to cross the idle of your comfort zone. The way we are going to make lasting change for all nationalities and for every generation is to make it personal and hug our way out of some of our difficulties. I want everyone right now in the middle of this message, to leave your seat, CROSS THE ISLE, and HUG someone. Don’t focus on the HATERS in your life, keep your eyes on the SAVIOR of your life! Sometimes you just need to HUG YOUR HATERS. (During the message EVERYONE in the audtorium participated in this hug challenge. This activity instantly charged the room with excitement and hope. The only problem was people was so excited hugging, laughing and talking, that I nearly did not get the crowd back, after nearly five minutes, everyone settled back in and I was able to complete my address.)
In King’s “Drum Major Instinct“ sermon, given on 4 February 1968, he agreed with this philosophy by using this hymn:
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.
3) THE WEAPONS ARE TEMPORARY – “shall prosper”
Taj Kamin, Director of Facilities Management of The King Center, stated, “I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr., being a God-fearing man, always had a strong mindset to do good, despite the environment and atmosphere in which he had to function and move, while trying to reach the masses with his message and vision. Opposition came against him on every side. Yet he remained steadfast with determination that many men did not possess at that time. I believe that, through his trust and strong belief in God and his word, Dr. King turned to Him for guidance through all that he was dealing with in his life. A scripture comes to mind that he may have thought upon in the midst of chaos, trouble and an atmosphere charged with hearts governed by hatred and prejudice: “No weapon is formed against you shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17) Yes, they will be formed but they shall not prosper.
King David addressed this temporal conflict in Psalms 30:5, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” As I have already articulated, I understand we still have difficulties in this world, but with God on our side we can turn:
ADVERSITY into ADVENTURE
AFFLICTION into FICTION
CIRCUMSTANCE into SECOND CHANCE
DILIMA into DELIGHT
EXHAUSTION into EXUBERANCE
GROANING into GROWING
HEAVINESS into HEAVENLINESS
NEEDinto MULTIPLIED SEED
OPPOSITION into OPPORTUNITY
PRESSURE into PLEASURE
PROBLEM into PROGRESS
SADNESS into GLADNESS
WEEPING into LEAPING
WORRY into WORSHIP
ABASE into GRACE
MISERY into MERCY
SITUATION into CELEBRATION
For the elder generation I would like cement this point using the words of Fred Hammond’s song Blessed: “Late in the midnight hour, God’s gonna turn it around, It’s gonna work in your favor. We’re blessed in the city, We’re blessed in the field, We’re blessed when we come and when we go, We cast down every stronghold, Sickness and poverty must cease, For the devil is defeated, We are blessed!”
The younger generation in the room may identify a little more with tonight’s theme song by Tauren Wells Undefeated: “Undefeated, There’s no stopping us, Undefeated, No doubt we’re champions, Undefeated, Can’t hold us down, we’re rising up, Infinity and 0, unstoppable, you already know, We’re undefeated.”
In conclusion, no one could say it better than Rev. King himself, “Let me say finally that we must all maintain faith in the future. As we struggle to make justice a reality we do not struggle alone, but God struggles with us … So I can say more than ever before: WE SHALL OVERCOME!”