Speak Up. Stand Up. — Remembering MLK

(Reflections in Sermon)

49 years ago the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee at the Lorraine Motel while in town speaking and standing up for sanitation workers fighting for better wages. 50 years ago Rev. King stood in the pulpit of the Riverside Church and offered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, speaking up and out against the Vietnam War. He spoke up about this subject because his conscience would not allow him to be silent any longer. Rev. King shared these words, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relationship to Vietnam.” In this speech, Rev. King stated his opposition against the Vietnam War from a moral and economic standpoint. He saw the Vietnam War as an immoral war that infringed on the rights of a sovereign nation in America’s effort for global domination through military might. Our bloodlust sucked precious resources from social uplift programs that helped those in poverty and facing economic hardship and instead funded America’s military machine that used poor people to kill other poor people. In the words of Tupac, “They got money for wars but can’t feed the poor.”

Rev. King’s decision to speak up about the Vietnam War lost him some friends and allies. We are far removed from the “I Have A Dream” Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was the darling of America. By 1967, Rev. King had spent considerable time in the housing projects of Chicago and witnessed the housing discrimination that took place there and in other slums and ghettos in northern cities. Rev. King began to make the connections between race, class, and the struggle for human rights. Rev. King was able to connect the struggles of the poor in Vietnam and the poor in America. And as Rev. King began to expand his thinking others wanted to keep him in a narrow framework of civil rights. Many colleagues and associates questioned whether this direct confrontation with the American military machine and American geopolitics would hurt their gains made in civil rights legislation. But Rev. King speaks clearly that his conscience won’t allow him to keep silent any longer. He must SPEAK UP!

We can learn something from Rev. King that will help us in the era of “45” and the age of “alternative facts.” WE MUST SPEAK UP! We cannot remain silent on those things our conscience is urging us to call out. WE MUST SPEAK UP! Rev. King could not remain silent on the war question anymore. HE SPOKE UP! Rev. King could not remain silent on copious amounts of money being spent on war while the richest nation in the world refused to take care of its most marginalized. HE SPOKE UP! Rev. King could not remain silent on the issue of poverty and unequal wages, that’s why he was in Memphis! HE SPOKE UP! What have you been silent about but your conscience is beckoning and urging you to SPEAK UP about? SPEAK UP!

IS IT STATE SANCTIONED VIOLENCE — SPEAK UP!

IS IT MASS INCARCERATION — SPEAK UP!

IS IT PATRIARCHY AND MISOGYNY — SPEAK UP!

IS IT EDUCATION — SPEAK UP!

IS IT RACISM AND CLASSIM — SPEAK UP

Not only must we SPEAK UP but we must STAND UP! Rev. King not only encouraged us to lend our voice to the cause of justice but our bodies as well. Rev. King said in his speech,

“These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”

Rev. King made it clear in no uncertain terms that we all must protest. We all must resist. We all have to STAND UP! We are living in an age where no one person has the luxury to not STAND UP. I don’t know what your protest looks like. I don’t know how your resistance looks. What I do know is that we must protest and we must resist! I know we must STAND UP! Put some action behind your Facebook posts and twitter posts, leave the computer screen and STAND UP! Put some action behind your frustration AND STAND UP! Don’t be overcome by cynicism and STAND UP! Continue to STAND UP!

Bob Marley wrote a song called “Get Up, Stand Up.” The song says “Get Up Stand Up. Stand Up for your rights. Get up stand up stand up. Don’t give up the fight.” I just want to encourage you this afternoon that in the age of “45” and in the face of injustice continue to GET UP AND STAND UP!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR JUSTICE!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR FREEDOM!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR BLACK WOMEN, BLACK MEN, BLACK BOYS AND BLACK GIRLS!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR IMMIGRANTS!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR REFUGEES!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR OUR LGBTQ BROTHERS AND SISTER!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR CHILDREN AND FOR WOMEN!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR THE POOR!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR THE INCARCERATED!

GET UP AND STAND UP FOR CREATION!

GET UP, STAND UP, STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!

GET UP, STAND UP, DON’T GIVE UP THE FIGHT!