Remembering MLK: Seeing Beyond the Brokenness

Pastoral Reflections

Beginning the day on Monday with a radio program in which a child’s voice was reciting Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech was a timely reminder of the ongoing influence of late Dr. King. As I listened to the child though, a question roamed my mind, “What gave MLK so much hope despite so much resistance and systemic brokenness?”

Then later, I vaguely recalled the opening sentences of his last speech popularized by the phrase; I’ve been to the mountaintop. He articulates that, despite the demoralizing challenges of the second half of the twentieth century, something greater was happening underneath the brokenness which gave him satisfaction to be alive in that age.

King begins, “[If] I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, ‘Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?’ I would take my mental flight…”

Then he went on to fly through the different highpoints of human eras; through the magnificent deliverance of Israel from the dungeons of Egyptian slavery, to the peak of the Greek empire where philosophy’s greats gathered around the Parthenon, to the mighty Roman Empire, to the Renaissance, to the Reformation, to the momentous presidency of Abraham Lincoln at America’s turning point, and so forth. He concluded that the very time in which he lived would still be his pick. But why?

He helps us see why. “That’s a strange statement to make,” he continues, “because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around… But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.”

So, what gave MLK so much hope despite so much brokenness? He saw the brokenness, and then beyond it. Put differently, his faith shaped his sight. He saw work happening and the Person behind that work.

He saw God at work in a broken world. He stepped in to find his place in that story. For that, he felt grateful to be alive in his peculiar times. The eyes through which we see the world, and hopefully beyond it, makes a difference in our response to its problems and promises.   __________________________________________________________________________________________
Donald Nwankwo
The Light of Christ Anglican Church
4000 W. Yale Ave.
Denver, CO 80219