(Left) Statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. over the west entrance of Westminster Abbey (Church of England, Anglican Communion). Installed in 1998, sculpted by Tim Crawley. Learn more about this image, here. (Right) Pastor Scott Klepach, Jr. serves as a student local pastor at Yakima: Wesley UMC.
By Pastor Scott Klepach, Jr. | Additional photos courtesy of Wikipedia.
Note: This week, clergy and laity from the PNWUMC will be sharing letters in the style of Bishop Woodie White celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Each letter will express some of the ideas, frustrations, questions and hopes from representatives in the PNW. Follow these letters here at The PNW News Blog!
Dear Dr. King,
During your final sermon, there in Memphis on April 3, 1968 just hours before your assassination, you likely fought weariness even as you delivered a resounding blast. You had been carrying on the good fight for many years. How tired were you then, Dr. King? How can we fight weariness, despair, and ebbing passion in this continuing fight today?
In that final sermon, you reflected on the expanse of this work: “If I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, ‘Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?’ – I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the Wilderness on toward the Promised Land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.”
Your leadership and work for justice and human rights will not stop with you. Just as God promised Abraham that from him a great many nations would arise, Abraham did not see the fulfillment of this promise. When Moses was called to lead the Hebrews to freedom, he did not see the end. Scripture is rich with the narrative of God’s people continuing on across the generations, but it is not done so idly or passively.
You, Dr. King, emerged when your voice was needed. We cannot let your voice – and the voices and work of so many others – be forgotten, or for the passion to grow stale as we are threatened by the lull of apathy or a false sense of security.
I see this legacy carrying out today with my own children, 9 and 7, and with the work that will continue with them. With hope, not despair, we should look to this work as something that might not end in our lifetimes. With hope, not despair, we are called to work. It is the Kingdom way, the way of the Kingdom that Jesus taught us to enter into and get to work here and now, while also looking ahead with that hope of the promise of what is to come, both in this world and in the hereafter.
Parenting reminds me of the always yet-to-be, or the unfolding, or the revealing, but perhaps never fully closing or ending work that Jesus taught and that you embodied.
I once wrote a poem about my daughter, Elise, and how watching her grow – as well as my son, Liam – is like what the Taoists called the uncarved blocks of clay, or, perhaps, as Isaiah alluded to as the potter’s hand shaping us. We, like that unshaped clay, are at our greatest potential before we are shaped or participate in this shaping. Like the uncarved clay, we have not yet been actualized. However, if we rested only in that potential, we would not act or experience our identities or the complexity and fullness in life. As we become shaped and live life, the potential of what could be is lost, or at least diminished when the “clay” is carved into some useful form – yet it serves a purpose.
Dr. King, your clay was shaped and helped to initiate a transformation of people and systems, but you did not see the end of that story. We have work to do to see the clay of your legacy continue to be shaped in this lifetime and our children’s lifetimes.
Scott Klepach, Jr. serves as a student local pastor at Yakima: Wesley UMC as well as the convener for the Communications Commission of the PNWUMC.