I have long resisted the recognition of certain national holidays in the church. National holidays such as Washington’s Birthday, July 4th Independence Day, Veteran’s Days/Memorial Days when they extol allegiance to the nation-state and its wars as opposed to the allegiance to Christ as Lord (This does not mean that we should not support the healing and restoration of our troops who have been through such horrific circumstances in many cases). “Heck,” I’ve even warned against recognizing “Father’s Day” and “Mother’s Day” because too often they have allowed the idolization of the family above Jesus Christ as Lord over the family within the people of God. I fear Father’s and Mother’s days have been occasions for the promotion of economic activity as opposed to Jesus as Lord over the family. I have resisted the temptation for protestant evangelicals to form our calendar around the agenda of our nation-state (in USA). I have been protective towards the forming of our corporate life around the sense of time and calendar and the progress of days we Christians have always recognized as holy days: advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, post Easter days (ascension), Pentecost. I have come to deeply appreciate that we are formed by all of these special days we recognize as holy days.
But there is something unique about Martin Luther King Day. For here is a “saint” of the church (yes I think we can say he was a saint despite some problematic faults) not necessarily a figure of the nation-state. I think I can safely argue that King worked for a justice born out of the history we have been given in the nation of Israel, Christ, the cross and the resurrection. Therefore, remembering Martin Luther King rehearses for all of us the impact of the church in the world for a justice that comes from the cross. My own personal belief is that the secularization of King’s work, in some cases by his own comrades, diminished the civil rights movement. For me this is all the more reason for the church to claim him as our own! I certainly realize this is up for debate. But even if I am wrong about the specific history of it all in its details, I am convinced the church, especially the evangelical church, would be well served in its mission and witness for Christ, to reclaim Martin Luther King for the church of Jesus Christ from those who wish to purely define his work as an advancement of a secular politic,
Yesterday, in church, before the passing of the peace, I read a few updates on various Christian justice efforts our church was either participating in or seeking participation in. Then Michelle Lewis, an African-American member of our congregation came to the front, explained the significance of Martin Luther King for the Christian church and then prayed that Life on the Vine church would become a place for the furthering of Christ’s justice. Way to go Michelle! We then invited our congregation to share “the peace of Christ” with each other. Rarely has “the peace” meant so much.