GUEST BLOG by Lacy Broemel, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society
Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest American civil rights leaders, was born on January 15, 1929 and was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Since 1986, the United States has celebrated King’s birthday as a national holiday on the third Monday of January. The Episcopal Church also commemorates the day of his death on the liturgical calendar each year.
Holy Women, Holy Men (Church Publishing, 2010) explains that “King lived in constant danger: his home was dynamited, he was almost fatally stabbed, and he was harassed by death threats. He was even jailed 30 times; but through it all he was sustained by his deep faith. In 1957, he received, late at night, a vicious telephone threat. Alone in his kitchen he wept and prayed. He relates that he heard the Lord speaking to him and saying, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice,’ and promising never to leave him alone – ‘No, never alone.’ King refers to his vision as his ‘Mountain-top Experience.’”
On April 3, 1968, the day before he was murdered, King delivered a speech in Memphis, Tennessee, popularly referred to as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” The following are excerpts from that speech:
“We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity. …
“We’re going to march again, and we’ve got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be – and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God’s children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That’s the issue. And we’ve got to say to the nation: We know how it’s coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. …
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. 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.”