“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
By the grace of God, I greet each of you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. We have so many reasons to praise God mainly because of who He is and what He is doing (not excluding what He has already done and what He will do). Like each day, today is special because the Lord made it; consequently, we must make every effort to rejoice and be glad throughout this day. Last week, I explained how Black History Month emanated, and today, as we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I want to highlight the life of one of my favorite African American heroes.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia being the second of three children to the Reverend Michael King, Sr. and Alberta King. His original name (which is on his original birth certificate) was Michael King, Jr. About 1894, King’s maternal grandfather, the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams became the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. After the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams died of a stroke in 1931, King’s father—the Reverend Michael King, Sr. became the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the church grew under his leadership from six hundred to several thousand. In 1934, King’s father began referring to himself as Martin Luther King, Sr. and his son as Martin Luther King, Jr. On July 23, 1957, King’s birth certificate was altered to read Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was 28 years old.
As a child, Martin Luther King, Jr. was very intellectual having a large vocabulary from reading dictionaries. When he got into physical altercations with boys in his neighborhood, King oftentimes used his knowledge of words to stymie fights. On May 18, 1941, while King watched a parade, he was informed that his maternal grandmother suffered a heart attack and died. King felt that he was responsible for her death because he was supposed to be studying at home when he went to watch the parade, so he tried to kill himself by jumping out of a second-story window at his home.
As an adolescent having great public speaking skills, King became a student at Morehouse College which was the same college that his father and maternal grandfather attended, and he played football in his freshman year. In 1947, King became a minister at the age of 18 the summer before his last year at Morehouse College, and in 1948, King graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at just 19 years of age. King then enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania where he was elected president of the student body and later graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity (equivalent to a Master of Divinity today) in 1951. In 1951, King began doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University, and he attended philosophy classes at Harvard University as an audit student in 1952 and 1953. On June 18, 1953, King married Coretta Scott on the lawn of her parent’s house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama, and they became the parents of four children: Yolanda King (1955–2007), Martin Luther King III (b. 1957), Dexter Scott King (b. 1961), and Bernice King (b. 1963). At the age of 25 in 1954, King was called to be the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and he received his Ph.D. degree on June 5, 1955.
Dr. King was a Baptist preacher and activist who became the most visible leader and spokesperson in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination which was April 4, 1968. Unlike some of the protests we witness today, Dr. King advanced civil rights through nonviolent protests which he saw modeled in the lives of Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi. After serving in Montgomery for five years, King moved to Atlanta where he served until his death as co-pastor with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist Church and helped expand the Civil Rights Movement across the South. Perhaps, King’s greatest message was entitled: “I Have A Dream” which was a seventeen-minute discourse that is regarded as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory.
On April 3, King addressed a rally and delivered his “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” address at Mason Temple, the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. King’s flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane. In the prophetic peroration of the last speech of his life, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:
“And then I got to Memphis, and some began to say the threats or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead, but it doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So, I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
On April 4, 1968, while standing on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fatally shot by James Earl Ray at 6:01 pm. The messenger was assassinated, but his message will never die. Among so much that King said, I really like when he said this: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
As we celebrate Black History Month, let us be certain to stand Godly in these times of challenge and controversy. Also, let us continue to financially support St. John—God’s church. We give currently by mailing or dropping off our Tithes and Offerings to our St. John South Campus (662 South 52ndStreet—Richmond, CA 94804) or by giving online through our website (sjmbc.org).
May God bless and sustain each of us.
Your Servant In Christ,
Dr. Kevin B. Hall, Pastor