EMU honors MLK
The late Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was “just a man,” but “he left us an image worth imitating, just as he (King) sought to imitate Christ” in his life and work.
Chris Johnson, a student in the master of divinity program at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and campus ministries intern, gave a passionate talk in tribute to the late civil rights leader in university chapel Friday, Jan. 16, to lead off events held at EMU to recognize and celebrate Dr. King.
“It’s not so important what people say about us here and now,” Johnson declared with fervor. “But rather, we need to ask what will people say about us after we’re gone – how will we be remembered,” he told his audience.
In his life, actions and struggle for civil rights, “King’s voice grew louder when his detractors tried to stop him. He became stronger and his influence spread as people tried to silence him,” Johnson said, adding: “Some of the same issues and needs that King worked for remain with us today.”
In his darkest hours, when he feared for his own life and and the safety of his loved ones, King “called on a higher power. He cried out to God and felt the call of the Lord, who promised, I will be with you,” Johnson said.
“Let us imitate the One that Martin Luther King sought to follow and to serve” in his life and ministry, Johnson challenged.
The chapel service included interpretative movement with sign language by the Alpha-Omega Dancers for Christ in response to King’s assassination and a call to perpetuate his dream of a country united for justice and equality and a selection by the EMU Community of Praise gospel choir.
At an afternoon worship service Jan. 18, Johnson spoke on “The Prophetic Life of Martin Luther King Jr.”
Basing his message on Matt. 16:13-27, Johnson noted that King’s efforts extended beyond civil rights and social equality.
“Martin’s dream was not just for society to change but for the church of America to change, which operated with a ‘separate but equal’ mentality,” he stated.
“Sundays are still the most segregated day in America,” he said. “America missed that call when King gave his prophetic speech in 1963, and it is time now for America to check its ‘voice mail,’ to hear the voice of God that is calling for His people to bare their cross for unity in the church, not just in society.
“We are called to bare the cross of Christ,” Johnson said. “When we bare the cross we will SEE, SUFFER and SAVE – see Christ in others, suffer for the call and we will save our children. That’s the call to America from God.”
Du RaG Ministries, a young adult campus ministry, and EMU’s gospel choir, helped lead worship at the commemorative service.
A desire to remember the past and to build on it, which helped drive Dr. King’s ministry, was underscored in a keynote address that opened the annual School for Leadership Training Monday night, Jan. 19, at EMU.
Regina Shands Stoltzfus, an adjust professor at Goshen (Ind.) College and doctoral student at Chicago Theological Seminary, said Dr. King’s calling, his prophetic message and desire to speak the truth as God revealed it to him was built upon his parents’ Christian faith, a happy home life and early pastoral work.
In her message, Shands Stoltzfus issued “a call to dangerous unselfishness” that regularly asks the question posed by the Good Samaritan story, who is my neighbor?
“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act,” she said. “We must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
In responding to God’s call, Shands Stoltzfus said, “Let us remember the places we have been – the smooth roads and rocky paths, the hard places and the good times, the celebrated heroes and the unsung laborers.
“Let us remember Babylon as well as Zion, but let us remember those places like rungs on a ladder, footholds as we move ever onward into God’s beloved community.”
– Story by Jim Bishop