Rector's Reflections for 1 November

Modern Saints facing Modern Challenges

Among the many challenges facing our modern world is the problem of Racism. In contemporary Britain, some people continue to suffer discrimination simply because of the colour of their skin.  How should Christians respond?

Many Christians have been inspired by the example of Martin Luther King, the Black Baptist minister and champion of civil rights. King was himself the son of a Baptist minister, and was born in Atlanta in 1929. In 1955, he organized a boycott of buses by Blacks, and in time this led to the Supreme Court of the United States ordering desegregation on buses in the state of Alabama. From 1960 onwards, King devoted himself mainly to the civil rights movement, and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Although the civil rights movement made significant progress in the US, not everyone agreed with the stance taken by King. King himself was assassinated in 1968, but his work continued, and in 1986 the 3rd Monday in January was made a federal holiday in his honour.

King was a gifted communicator, using sermons, speeches and the written word to get his message across. I have a copy of one his collections of sermons, Strength to Love , and it made a strong impression it made on me when I first read it,  over 20 years ago. Other works by King include Stride toward Freedom (1968) and Where Do We Go From Here : Chaos or Community? (1967).

King was, of course, a man of his time, and like us all, he was not without his failings. But these failings have not prevented many people from considering him to be a modern saint; and this is quite right, as there has never been a saint without their imperfections, and never will be. King saw the racial discrimination suffered by many Blacks in the America of his day, and he was determined to try and do something about it. He continued to champion civil rights, even in the face of considerable opposition. And he did all that he did because of his strong Christian faith.

So I think that we can regard Martin Luther King as an example of a modern saint facing a modern challenge. King not only recognised the reality of Racism: he was actually prepared to try and do something about it. So often we recognise problems but never get round to doing anything about them. I wonder what King would say to each one of us as we look around us and see the problems and challenges in our own society?

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