The Inauguration of a New Day

We retell the birth, life, and death of Dr. King to symbolize that it is not until humanity can measure the worth and meaning of a single life, that it can extend worth that to all souls. But, this is a new day. For more than nearly fifty years this culture has dwelt in grief over the loss of great lives in the murders of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and others. We have dwelt in grief over the loss of faith in humanity and human institutions, from Watergate to Monica-gate to Guantanamo Bay. Yet, this is a new day, as our choir sang.

Send the sun in time for dawn
Let the birds all hail the morning
Love of life will urge me say
You are the new day
-- John David

This is not so much a day to recall Dr. King’s life from cradle to grave, or to hear preaching about the meaning of his dream, but to awaken to the prospect cultivated in this moment. This is a new day. And you are that new day.

When Dr. King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for participating in a civil rights demonstration, he laid out what was necessary for people to do to live in this new day and be the new day: To reject the myth of time. “It is the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills… We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men and women willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”

The sins of the fathers and mothers can be redeemed by the children, but only if myths are dispelled and just acts are undertaken. Without this, the myths give birth to other myths just as pernicious.

The new day will not be without struggle. The myth of struggle is that somehow the worth and dignity of all living souls as children of God requires no effort on our part to secure it in reality. The new day will not be without burden. The myth of burden is that this gift of life is so precious that it should come without pain or loss. The new day will not be without trial. The myth of trial is that greatness requires no aspiration or higher sentiment and aim translated through humanity’s deeds.

All of these myths compose the great myth of humanity. The great myth of humanity, the myth that includes all other myths as untruths, is that we are as puppets dangling from a bare, ruined string manipulated by God. And it is this stubborn myth that the new day calls us to dispel and destroy. It is not the calling of one nation alone. It is not the calling of one family or tribe, or the calling of a blood and soil fraternity. It is not a calling to one man or woman alone, or to self-interested policies or partisanship above humaneness. The new day calls to destroy the great myth of humanity, in order that our lives might then serve love and justice, in humility and devotion, until all souls are free.

There is around us evidence that we are co-workers with sacred and holy forces in existence, and that it is by our sentiment, effort, and will that justice, equality, and freedom become human realities out of Divine possibilities.

Do not sleep through the revolution that can destroy the great myth of humanity. Do not sleep with your eyes wide open, not seeing that you are part of a great garment of mutuality and destiny, and that what you do or neglect to do, knits the fabric closer or unravels and frays it. Overcome the great myth of humanity with more than your understanding. Overcome the great myth of humanity by a life of service to love, for all souls and so as to become the new day.

And when we become the new day memory will not be erased. Some of us still remember with great aching, when “they killed Martin.” When we become the new day eyes are not closed to the instances of our inhumanity. Politicians and preachers and popes and parents will remain finite and frail and flawed with error and omission. When we become the new day Barack Obama will not become a Republican, nor George Bush a Democrat. And we surely will not become superheroes, conceived absent the capacity to sin or with the breadth of God’s wisdom and ways.

But when we cultivate a new attitude, a new mental response, a new faith the new situation demands and calls forth, we do new things as the human family. We exist through love and forgiveness, one to another. And then we know who we are. And then we live to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, love the despised, bring peace to the brutalized, educate the ignorant, and ring in freedom in the face of oppression and stand up in the midst of tyrannies of the mind and spirit.

What would you like said at your memorial service? Dr. King asked this of himself, and his murder and the events of this hour leave us with more than his words to soothe our grief, or his dream to hear one day and set aside the next. What would you like said at your memorial service, as witness for the presence of the new day and as an invitation to it the generations that follow you to live into it?

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice and with our aid, bends further and fuller. There is a Spirit alive in the world stronger than sin and death. This is being confirmed again in the new day. And to be fit for this new day, you are invited to awaken and become great in your generosity and great in your love, in service to all souls.

About the Author

Brent A Smith

Rev. Dr. Brent Smith was in the parish for 26+ years before joining faculty at Grand Valley State University (Western Michigan) where he now teaches Religious Studies. He served as Senior Minister at four churches, Unitarian Church North (Milwaukee), All Souls Tulsa, Fountain Street Church...

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