MLK’s “Auto-Eulogy”

Fifty years ago, tonight, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of a Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.  I believe that all Americans, and people from every other part of the world, who love freedom should grieve this tragic and traumatic event in our history.  Likewise, every American, and all others, who cherish the hope of recovering the Image of God in all persons, should thank God for the courage of conviction, strength of character, and lasting legacy that continues to bless the world through Dr. King’s life and work.

I do not know whether he had a sense of what might happen to him, but two months prior to his murder, Dr. King spoke at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  During that speech he said:

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral.  And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell him not to talk too long ….  Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize. That isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards. That’s not important. Tell them not to mention that I went to school.  I’d like somebody to mention that day, that ‘Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others.’  I’d like for somebody to say that day, that ‘Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.’  I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those were naked. I want you to say on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.“

Again, I do not know whether he had an awareness of what would happen, but I do know he had a testimony of what he sought to do, and a public record that reflects earnest and often painful striving to serve and care in ways that Jesus said would position a people to hear, “Well done!”

May there be swelling throngs of people, from every part of our nation and world, not least among a people called Free Methodist, who aspire and strive to serve and care for the last and least mentioned by the same Jesus who is both Dr. King’s and our Messiah.