On the mind of the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser

Jan 13, 2023

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast Day of Martin Luther King, Jr. We’ll use the readings and collect appointed for his day and enjoy music in the gospel tradition. The liturgical color will be red for martyrdom. This is something new for Incarnation but not the Episcopal Church more broadly. It should be a fitting celebration as we give thanks for Dr. King’s life, work, and Christian witness.

It’s also a fitting time in the life of our parish to lift up God’s timeless imperative of racial justice. A group of parishioners recently finished Sacred Ground, an extended Christian formation series on race and faith created by the Office of the Presiding Bishop and led by the Rev. Dr. Nate Lee. Next month, Nate is bringing this group together with parishioners from St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery who have also completed the Sacred Ground journey. We’ll see what the Holy Spirit might generate from this gathering.

As Christians, we know and embrace Jesus’ words, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). We may also acknowledge, as James A. Garfield famously added, “but first it will make you miserable.”

King knew and testified to the misery-making truths of racism in his day. While we may be familiar with the more uplifting passages of his “I Have a Dream” speech, it is worth reading or listening to the speech in full to be reminded of the picture of discrimination he painted in 1963. Some aspects are painfully recognizable nearly 60 years later.

Like King, Jesus also spoke the truth about human brokenness and sin. Yet both men, in their life and ministry, and Jesus on Easter Day, revealed a more powerful truth — God’s love is stronger than sin and even the grave. Our faith insists that we face difficult truths about ourselves and the world. Then can we live into the light of God’s love that we, and all, may be set free.

Free at last.