This week we at FUMC of Arlington will host the MLK, Jr. festivities for the city of Arlington. In honor of this occasion I share with you Thomas Lane Butts’ words given 19 January 2004 at Morning Star Baptist Church, Monroeville, Alabama.
In the traditional ritual for "The Burial of the Dead," when the minister reads the closing words of the committal at the grave-side, just before the Kyrie Eleison, he reads: "I heard a voice from heaven saying to me: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." The good that you have done, which may have gone unnoticed and unappreciated, will not be forgotten. In the farther reaches of time and eternity, the only thing that God forgets is the sin that He has forgiven; but the good you have done follows you in the silent memory of God. There is not much you can take with you when you leave this world. I have never seen a U-Haul vehicle in a funeral procession. You cannot take money, or fame, or land, or houses, or worldly honor; but the good you have done: it is yours forever because God remembers it.
Even the ancient philosophers, who had no particular religion, believed that death was the great leveler. Death is very democratic. Once when Diogenes was plundering around in a burial place, looking at the bones, Alexander the Great asked him what he was looking for. He said: "I am looking for the bones of your father, but I cannot distinguish the bones of your father from the bones of his slaves." There is a great day coming at which time all things will be made right. I believe that! But I also believe something else. Justice delayed is justice denied!
We live in a great city, but it can be better. We have come a long way, but we are not there yet. Let us join hands in remembrance, repentance, and response. Let us look for ways to love and affirm one another across all lines. How privileged we are to have a hero figure in the person of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is a spiritual hero to white people as well as to African-American people. As long as we remember the spirit in which he lived and died, we have the key to the ultimate solution of racism and hate, in whatever form it may appear. Long live our memory of Dr. King!
Now let us go in peace, determined to give our lives and efforts to the cause of justice and equity for all—now. Be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. May our celebrations of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King amount to something meaningful in our lives. May we be strengthened and encouraged by our resolve so that we may:
Dance like nobody is watching
Sing like nobody is listening,
Work like we don’t need the money,
Love like we have never been rejected or hurt and
Live as if the kingdom really has come. AMEN.