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Remembering Dr. King

Posted: December 1, 2012 by Rob Voyle

Fellow companion on the Appreciative Way, Dr. Ron English was a young assistant pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta when Dr. King was slain. Below is the prayer Ron prayed at Dr. King's funeral. With a couple of contextual edits it is a prayer that we could all pray for today.

In next weeks newsletter I will provide the schedule of training for 2012.

Lenten Program: Saving America: Growing the United States of America not the Divided States of America. A group of people are developing an Appreciative Inquiry based Lenten study and dialogue program to respond to the destructive rhetoric that abounds in our churches and society. More details to follow.

Dr. Ron English's prayer at Dr. King's funeral.

Let us bow our heads in a moment of solemn utterance.

Eternal and everlasting God Our Father. The height of our aspirations, the depth of our existence, Thou who are the giver and sustainer of life, from Whom all things have come and to whom all things shall return, we beseech Thy comforting presence in this hour of deepest bereavement.

For our hearts are heavily laden with sorrow and remorse at the removal of one of history's truest representatives of Thy will and purpose for mankind.

While we pray for comfort we pray for wisdom to guide our thoughts aright at this hour. For we, oh God, in our limited vision cannot begin to comprehend the full significance of this tragic occasion.

And so we raise the perennial question of Job: "Why?" as we weep for the moment.

Yet we are reminded by the best of the Christian tradition that in the total economy of the universe good will ultimately triumph. Though sorrow tarries for the night, joy comes in the morning.

We know, oh God, that even in this little while of sorrow we need not weep for the deceased, for here was one man truly prepared to die.

In his last hours he testified himself that he had been to the mountaintop, that his eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. We know he had no fear of death.

Help us to find consolation in the fact that his life was a gift given to us at this crucial juncture in our history out of the graciousness of Thy being.

And so we had no real claims upon him. In the fullness of time he came and in the fullness of time he was gone. He knew where he came from and he knew where he was going. And so as we abide in this knowledge our gratitude will abate our sorrows.

We know, oh God, that life is but a moment in eternity and that he who lives for the moment will surely die, yet he who lives for eternity and dedicates his life to those ultimate principles of truth, justice, and love as this man has done will never die.

Inspire us to accept the imperative that his life so fully exemplifies - that we would not judge the worth of our lives by their physical longevity but by the quality of their service to mankind.

He has shown us how to live, oh God. He has shown us how to love. Yet the manner of his teaching and the manner of his being was so strange and unfamiliar in our world, a world that abounds in war, hatred and racism, a world that exhausts the wicked and crucifies the righteous, a world where a word of condemnation is familiar while a word of kindness is strange.

So this man was a peculiar man. He taught a peculiar teaching. So he was not of this world. So in the course of human events the forces of time, faith and the hope of the oppressed converged upon a single man.

Though once in a century the midwife of oppression snatches from the womb of history a child of destiny, the records of events testifies to the fact that history cannot bear the truth.

We have witnessed the life of the crucified Christ and we have seen the slaying of Martin Luther King. So like a wild carnivorous beast that turns upon and devours them, history has turned once more upon its own because it could not bear the truth he spoke or the judgment that he brought.

And so like Jesus, not only did Martin Luther King challenge the status quo, but he challenged our mode of existence. Therefore, like Jesus he had to die as a martyr for a cause that challenged the world's assumed posture of security.

The light came into the darkness but the darkness knew it not.

Oh God, our leader is dead. And so now the question that he posed during his life finds us all in its garing proportions: "Where do we go from here? Chaos or community."

We pray, oh Merciful Father, that the removal of this man will not nullify the revelation given through him.

Undergird our feeble efforts with Thy strengthen and renew our courage to devote the full weight of our being to the ideas that he has thus far so nobly advanced.

Deepen our commitment to nonviolence so that this country will not be run asunder by a frustrated segment of the black masses who would blaspheme the name of Martin Luther King by committing violence in that name.

Grant that the Congress and President of this nation who have been so generous and gracious in their memorial tributes will be guided by the memory of this suffering servant and return to the legislative halls determined to pass without compromise or reservation legislation so vitally needed to preserve domestic tranquility and prevent social disruption.

Grant, oh lover of peace, that we will effectively negotiate for a peaceful settlement in Vietnam to end the brutal slayings and communal atrocities committed in the name of democracy.

Turn our hearts, oh God, to hear and respond to the echoes of this undying voice of the ages, a voice of love and reconciliation in the present, a voice of hope and confidence in the future.

Grant that in response to his sacrificial death we will work toward that day when the long and tragic tune of a man's inhumanity to man will resolve into a chorus of peace and brotherhood. Then love will tread out the baleful signs of anger and its ashes plant a tree of peace.

With Gratitude for Dr. King, Dr. English and other servants of justice and peace.
Rob Voyle

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