Over the last few weeks, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4th 1968, many churches have been remembering the life and ministry of Martin Luther King.
This spell bindingly eloquent Baptist minister from the Deep South of the
United States played a seminal role in the story of the advancement of civil
rights in that country and during this 50th anniversary I’ve heard
interviews with people who knew him and they have not only wanted to speak of
the day he died but the life he lived.
They have wanted to help us understand his message and passion. They have wanted to continue his work – of striving
in a non-violent way – towards the goal of mutual respect and representation.
And that, it seems to me, is Luke’s agenda in the lectionary passage from Acts
that is set for this coming Sunday – it’s the passage in which Peter and John
healed a lame man at the temple and then went on to preach a sermon about Jesus
and his death and resurrection.
This isn’t just plain reporting. This is
Luke gives Peter’s sermon an edge and fills in the dots. And that was an
accepted way of writing history in those days.
You didn’t only tell the story of your hero, you gave them a speech that
explained their passion and reasoning; that made them come alive.
I think there is no doubt that Peter isn’t just giving the crowd a history
lesson about Jesus – he is proclaiming and then living out the message that the
work of Jesus, his spirit and presence is still around. Indeed, he says of himself and John: We are
witnesses to all that has happened.
The supporters of Martin Luther King passionately want his work to carry on;
the disciples of Jesus Christ want nothing less for their Lord and Master.
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