The Prophet’s Word

I’m grateful for the annual day marked off to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Racial reconciliation and justice is something always bubbling just beneath my consciousness, and MLK day forces it to the surface. It forces me to reflect specifically on the man’s legacy, but also on my own engagement with his cause.

This year, I was glad to participate in our small town’s March in memory of Dr. King. It was surreal and powerful, walking with my children, surrounded by a slice of our community.

I also try to spend some time reading some of Dr. King’s work, and this year I sat down with his Letter From a Birmingham Jail. It’s an amazing piece of work, and its power to convict holds today. The challenging letter calls out the White church for their silence in the face of the struggle for civil rights, and every paragraph burns. The letter is inspiring, instructive, and stinging throughout, and if it’s been a while since you’ve read it, it’s worth sitting down with for a half hour. Word for word, it’s one of the most important things the church produced in the last century.

I also spent a little time trying to reflect poetically on what it means for me, living more than 50 years later, to try and pick up the echo of Dr. King’s message. What came out was the little poem below, which I shared at the ceremony on Monday.

There’s much work to be done, my friends. May the Lord be with us.

The Prophet’s Word

Dreamer, Seer,
Prophet, Preacher,

Sent to us, the Nineveh next door,
He willingly went,
Walked,
Marched,

From you, with you
To us, at us,

With just the word we needed,
a word we could not hear.

We could only see it,
See its drama enacted,
While it called out the violence within us.

We could not hear the word,
but we could see it,
and be seen by it.

We could not hear it, but the word would not depart.

Its echo rumbles through the canyon still,
While the unseen water rushes on below,
like a mighty stream.