Today is the holiday to commemorate Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.  On this day, I usually listen to some of his speeches, such as the eloquent word choices in the Dream speech given at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug 28, 1963.  I listened again today on NPR in the car, and then again when I got home. (watch it yourself)

One thing that struck me this year was the introduction.  Dr King was called ‘the spiritual leader of the nation.’  Not Billy Graham.  Not the other 4 speakers at that event (whose names are largely forgotten).  Dr King’s use of scripture to make a moral and social point in the middle of his speech, his insistence that civil rights was a spiritual problem to be addressed by spiritual means.

My home church did that earlier this month when they covered the front lawn with 2,470 crosses, to call attention to the abortion issue.  Not a political statement, but a statement of belief, calling attention to the problem in a way that would not be ignored by passers-by.  It got attention.  The sign was torn down and some of the  crosses were uprooted and thrown into the street.  The sign was replaced with a simple message: “considering abortion? there is an alternative.  call us” and gave the number.  It made the paper.

There are other examples, of course, of Christians giving the faith a bad name.  Protesting funerals.  Pastors arrested for unholy acts.  For these we cringe, and move forward in spite of them.

What are you doing to advance the Gospel in the community?   Wilberforce and his group of friends reshaped England and Western Civilization by speaking out against slavery and complacency.  How are you exercising spiritual leadership?

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Today is the 45th anniversary as Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. While this blog is not about racial equality, we cannot shy away from discussions of equality. Jesus died for all, Jew and Gentile, light-skinned and dark-skinned, male and female, young and old. In that sense, the speech has lessons for all of us.

The speech, by the way, was an afterthought. He had already finished his speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and someone shouted “What about the dream?” The “dream” speech is one he had given many times in other venues, but none were recorded the way this appearance was. And none to such a large and anxious audience. And so he stayed standing and began to speak those famous words “I have a dream…

Dr King had been arrested and recently released, and a coalition of white ministers had asked him to slow down his message.

He said no.

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilising drug of gradualism.”

I remind you now of these words. Dr King, a pastor, was nonetheless that day speaking of racial equality, democracy and justice. I remind you, instead of your calling as pastors and church leaders of your mission to spread the message of salvation equally to all people.

Many American churches are struggling with old ideas and practices while overall faith and church attendance slips to near one quarter of this “Christian” nation. This is not the time to “take the tranquilising drug of gradualism.” You need to understand the fierce urgency of Now.

Don’t quit. Don’t grow weary in well-doing. Don’t wait for “someday.” Be aware of the now, and press on!