Brent A. Smith
For seven years
this church has used this Sunday to 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
Yet, this is a new day, as our choir sang.
the sun in time for dawnLet the
birds all hail the morningLove of
life will urge me sayYou 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
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
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
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
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 supermen or wonderwomen, 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
Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association
member congregations permission to reprint this piece for use in public worship.
Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.
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Last updated on Monday, March 25, 2013.
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