For All the Saints – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Early morning, April 4th,  a shot rings out in the Memphis sky. Free at last. They took your life. They could not take your pride.”

Call it the privilege of of my birth, my age or my station, but I tend to associate today as much with the line from the U2 song as I do with the actual events of April 4, 1968. Yes, they are about the same thing. No, the actual events took place more than seven years before I was born. But that’s probably still no excuse. April 4, 1968 is, to borrow a line from the description of yet another date in the same century, a day that will live in infamy.

Martin Luther King Jr. is notable in the calendar of saints for a couple of reasons. One, he is not an Episcopalian, a member of the Anglican Communion or a Catholic from pre-reformation times. Additionally, he is celebrated on two different dates in the calendar: the date of his death, today, and the date of his birth, January 15. Very few others, even the original disciples of Jesus are given two dates in the calendar. Even fewer are celebrated on the date of their birth. To the best of my knowledge, King was the first in the calendar of saints to be honored in this way (not having two days, but having one be on the date of his birth).

This does raise some raise an interesting question, though, about which days should be chosen as the days to commemorate the lives of the saints.  Should it be on the day that they entered the world or the day they left it? Should it be on the day that their earthly life began or the day that their eternal life began? Should it be on the day of their greatest potential or the day that their legacy achieved its final shape? There are certainly good reasons to follow either path. Oddly, it is so difficult, anymore, to even find an open date in the calendar (there will certainly be another blog-post on whether and why we might limit ourselves to 365 saints) that one might even have to choose a third type of day.

Truth is that there is likely no one in the calendar of saints more deserving that Martin Luther King Jr. to be celebrated on two different days. The value of his legacy in witness to the Gospel is nearly immeasurable, not only in what he accomplished in his life, but also in what his death came to mean as both a motivator and a prophetic critique.

“For the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King . . . SING!”

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