Monday, January 19, 2009

He Saw It From The Mountaintop

Today marks one of the most significant Martin Luther King holidays ever. It falls on the eve of the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president. Troy Jackson, a friend of mine who pastors a church in Cincinnati, came out with an excellent book on Dr. King called Becoming King. The book is about King's life before he was a national figure. It chronicles his life while he was a 25 year old preacher and pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama. Not too long after he was there, a seamstress at a downtown apartment store boarded a bus and refused to give up her seat to a white woman. Mrs. Park's case sparked a boycott that lasted close to a year and was one of the pivotal events that thrust this young preacher onto the national stage. Troy's done the world a great service with this book that provides us a look at a very human young man who would become "King".

This past week, I have watched several of Dr. King's speeches. One of the most inspiring is his "Mountaintop Speech" where it seems he knew that his time had come to an end. The clip that I embedded into the blog only gives the closing. There are several significant passages in the speech that move me including this one about the Good Samaritan's and the Priest's response to the man in distress:

"And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

Good words for all of us to take to heart as we honor Dr. King today. He concludes his speech about not being afraid of anyone because he has been to the mountaintop and has seen the promised land. Of course we know that he was shot and killed the very next day. Part of me wonders if in his mind's eye what he saw from that mountaintop looked a lot like inauguration day tomorrow.