Today, we had a school assembly to watch the “I Have a Dream” speech by the American prophet and martyr for justice, Martin Luther King Jr. It was moving and powerful, at least for me, realizing (again) how spell-binding and compelling a speaker he was, and how thoroughly the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach peace and justice. I try to re-read another sermon to the Americans, delivered the Sunday before he died, at this time of year. It seems particularly apropos this year, when so many of the politicians for offer in November’s election are farcically revolting, but then there are large crowds revolting in the streets.
Of course, all sorts of effort has gone into discrediting or ridiculing Dr. King’s academic work, riddled with plagiarism and irregularity, but that doesn’t change that the man knew how to wear the mantle of the Elijah… a mantle he was still wrapped in when he died. Is he a Celtic saint? No, not exactly. Is he worthy of receiving intercessory prayers? I hope so.
Martin, Apostle to Americans,
you pastored a church in Montgomery:
from its pulpit you seized the barbicans
of privilege, with only the psalmody
of small children, and your own peace in Christ.
Not to say none helped you, nor none gave blood
excepting you alone: with saints you’re placed
for accepting the yoke, and iron rod
of the LORD, to be freedom’s disciple,
a prophet of justice, that mighty stream.
When we meet at the gates of God’s temple,
me, not-quick, you and Peter both serene…
and Pete says, “This one: is he white with sin?”
Please, brave Saint Martin — say I can come in.
C.S. Lewis said something along the lines of Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us. I really believe that, and I think one of the values of writing prayers to the saints, and then saying them, is that we’re acknowledging a change that must occur in us. It’s my hope that this poem comes to people who need it. I know I needed to write it, because racial and social discrimination is alive in people even who think they live conscious to that awareness. It’s in the water around us, the air we breathe, the language we speak, particularly here in America. Unless we make the intercession with a saint who can remind us of that transformation, we’re going to forget that.