April 5, 2018
Are the Proper's for this Sunday's Eucharist unusual for the second Sunday of Easter?
Yes. The normal Proper's for the Second Sunday of Easter include a Gospel reading about the resurrection encounter of the eleven, sans Thomas (remember Judas is dead at this point), and Jesus on the evening of the Resurrection (John 20:19-31.) A week later, Thomas has his encounter with Jesus, overcomes his doubts, and makes the audacious claim about Jesus, "My Lord and my God!" A normal sermon for this Sunday would unpack doubt, or faith, or Jesus' divinity.
But the day this Francisco Fact is being written is also the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1968. It is sometimes difficult for me to fathom that it has been fifty years since 1968. I was eleven years old back then. That was a tumultuous year with two prominent assassinations of public figures, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, and a tense and difficult Presidential election.
Under the authority of the Book of Common Prayer, Bishop Johnston, our Diocesan, has both granted permission to and encouraged for the parishes of the Diocese of Virginia to use the resources developed for the annual fixed date celebration on April 4 of the Life and Witness of Martin Luther King, Jr. on this Sunday, April 8, the closest Lord's day following that observance.
I am respecting the Bishop's authority and request for the following reasons. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a deeply Christian man, though admittedly not perfectly so. His legacy of calling a nation full of Christians into faithfulness with its religious and foundational ideals had a profound impact on our national trajectory. He was instrumental in the breaking down of legal barriers to the full integration of African-Americans into the life of the United States and assisted mightily in bringing about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Dr. King carried on after these two pieces of legislation were enacted to get at the heart of continual racial injustice within the United States. He traveled the country during the escalation of the Vietnam War calling for its end and pointing out the disproportionate burden on young black men in the prosecution of that conflict. He also pointed to deep problems between our governing ideals and the objectives of our military engagement.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was in Memphis, TN in support of striking transit workers. He was assassinated on the balcony of a hotel. The United States erupted into riots and violence, including Washington, D.C. General William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968, described the smoke in D.C. from fires begun in the rioting as greater than the smoke of Saigon during the Tet offensive of that same year.
Because of Dr. King's deeply Christian approach to healing a major wound in our body politic, because of his commitment to the principals of non-violent resistance, and because of his willingness to enact Christian love, I believe that this commemoration is in keeping with the Easter celebration of God's work in Jesus Christ.