Litany for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

We remember the conviction of Martin Luther King Jr. that
"freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor;
it must be demanded by the oppressed."

Therefore, let us pray
for courage and determination
by those who are oppressed. . . .

We remember Martin's warning that
"a negative peace which is the absence of tension"
is less than "a positive peace which is the presence of justice."

Therefore, let us pray
that those who work for peace on our world
may cry out first for justice. . . .

We remember Martin's insight that
"injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality
tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."

Therefore, let us pray
that we may see nothing in isolation,
but may know ourselves bound to one another
and to all people under heaven. . . .

We remember Martin's lament that
"the contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice
with an uncertain sound.
It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo.
Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church,
the power structure of the average community
is consoled by the church's silent and often vocal sanction
of things as they are."

Therefore, let us pray
that neither this congregation nor any congregation of Christ's people
may be silent in the face of wrong,
but that we may be disturbers of the status quo
when that is God's call to us. . . .

We remember Martin's hope that
"dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away
and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted
from our fear-drenched communities
and in some not-too-distant tomorrow
the radiant stars of love and brotherhood
will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

Therefore, in faith,
let us commend ourselves and our work for justice
to the goodness of almighty God.

Quotations from Letter from the Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.; Litany by W. B. McClain and L. H. Stookey, U.S.A., 20th Cent. From The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992.) Used by permission. For information about reproducing this material, please contact the United Methodist Publishing House.
Letter from the Birmingham City Jail © 1963 by Martin Luther King Jr.; © renewed 1991 by Coretta Scott King.

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