15 Sep 2014
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On Martin Luther King Day, Ask 'Where Art Thou?'

Brenda Simmons, co-founder of the African-American Museum of the East End and assistant to the Southampton Village mayor, delivered this speech at Rogers Memorial Library on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2008.

On Martin Luther King Day, Ask 'Where Art Thou?' On Martin Luther King Day, Ask 'Where Art Thou?'

Who was Martin Luther King Jr.? I think of words like: educated, husband, advocate, man of integrity, father, man of faith/prophet, mighty man of valor, courageous; a man who ultimately and literally sacrificed his life.

What did he stand for? He took a stand against injustice. He stood for equality, and nonviolence.

Today, I want us to take a personal look at ourselves, to see how we can individually relate to the life and mission of Martin Luther King Jr.; his assignment, his commitment, his struggle, and most of all his sacrifice.

How can I relate? I can relate to the importance of being educated, I can relate to being an advocate, a woman of integrity, faith, boldness, as well as the importance, the meaning, and the struggle of living a selfless sacrificial life. For the most part it’s a life that chooses you and then you choose to live it or not live it. Martin Luther King Jr. laid a foundation; he left a designed and divine path that we could follow. The choice is ours. As a preacher, Martin might ask us today to open up our Bible’s to Genesis 3: 8-9 to expound on the biblical story of a similar question God asked Adam and Eve and that I asked you today;  Where art thou? God placed Adam and Eve in an oasis, a Garden of Eden to want for nothing, but the only thing He asked them to do, was not to eat from one tree. But they disobeyed.

Genesis 3:8-9

8 And Adam and Eve heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.  (they detached themselves from their life source)

9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said to him, Where art thou?

God is omniscient, all knowing. He obviously knew where Adam was, so why do you think God asked Adam the rhetorical question, "where art thou?"  I believe God was asking Adam to take an introspective look at who he was, not necessarily where he was physically. I believe this also had to do with where Adam was in regards to his relationship with God. Adam forfeits everything, stepped out of the mind of peace in the Garden, and he found himself in a place of forbidden disobedience.  

Where is your peace? What have you been asked to do? Are you obeying your purpose/calling? What is your purpose/calling? Why are you here? Where are we in regards to the dream of Martin Luther King? We may answer those rhetorical questions by saying, I am the assistant to the mayor, I am a trustee, I am a lawyer, a Realtor, teacher, a librarian; or we might answer by proudly saying,
I graduated from Harvard, Yale, Morehouse, or Howard. Or, I live in the Hamptons, I have a condo in Florida, a villa in Jamaica — but does that really answer the question, Where art Thou? Who are you? How can you relate to the life and the mission of Martin Luther King?

Having money is great, we all feel we could use a little more money, but money often only measures how comfortable we are, how comfortable we have made our surroundings. It is a true expression of personal contentment and self realization? Is money, degrees, or positions who you are; or is it only a reflection of what you have?

Adam and Eve covered and hid themselves. What are you hiding behind? What are you covering up? What are you concealing? What are you masking as truth? Are we lying to ourselves? A lie is like the truth of cancer. It spreads and ultimately kills, if you don’t stop it before it develops and grows. Who are we for real?  Who art thou?

While your thinking and reflecting on that let Martin Luther King Jr. echo a few thoughts your way:

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, popular, nor political; but because it is right.

How about an echo of encouragement from the terrestrial mountains of South Africa?

Nelson Mandela said:

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with you. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.

Marianne Williamson said:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Martin Luther King Jr. was in the lime light, he gain worldwide recognition. How did he choose to use that recognition/power?  He was a selfless humble man. He acknowledged that he could not do it on his own. He was not an “I” man, but he was a “team” man. We saw him with an entourage of supporters that were with him as encouragers, protectors, and partners in the fight. His entourage was unlike the entourage we see today. Today we see many rich and famous people that have an entourage and/or a group of followers only for show.

Martin Luther King Jr. saw beyond his life. He saw freedom, he saw justice. He saw and believed that confrontation could bring restoration.

I pondered on how Martin Luther King would answer that important question; “Where art thou?" I believe he would answer the question not of a physical content but an inner spiritual perspective. In the midst and the struggle of accepting his call Martin Luther King took a soul searching journey, through, I believe, talking, praying, and seeking God, and other wise council, like Gandhi.

Martin Luther King was not a perfect man, but through his imperfections he journeyed to find himself. In that journey he needed and found confirmation of his calling, his assignment; who he was, and why he was here. I wonder if we truly understood the inner spiritual depth of MLK. Finding oneself starts from within. In order for me; in order for you to find where you are, you have to know who you are. We are not who we see from an outer perspective. The clothes we wear, the rings we adorn, the shoes, the minks, Armani, Versace, and Rocawear.

Is that not merely a statement of the outer over the inner? We are who we are from within. Who we are within will eventually come out in spite of what we wear. 

Matthew 12:34 states, "Out of the abundant of our heart the mouth speaks” It is not about our degrees, our titles, our status or our wealth, because many who have it all have no peace within. God said, “Peace I leave with you.” Peace left is peace to be obtained. Shalom is the Hebrew translated of peace, which means nothing missing nothing broken. MLK embraced and provoked peace to change. He looked ahead and anticipated that the struggle did not end with the Civil Rights Movement. He laid the foundation and path for us to come together and to move forward. I believe on his “Mountain Top” speech he handed us the baton to expand the dream to address worldwide issues. We have made some progress, but it’s very sad to say that we still have some of the same issues today. Who will unfold their arms of “I can’t do that”? Who will roll up their sleeves and stretch out your hands of “I will do it.” Who will take the baton of “let’s do this!”

Martin Luther King desired that his dream would inspire us to sign on to be a part of the “Dream Team.” Dream Team, we have our orders. We are black, white, brown, rich and/or poor; let’s do this together. But first, where art thou? Where are you? Who are you? Either you stand for justice or you take the reclining seat of injustice. Either you stand for equality or you position yourself behind the wall of inequality.

I’ve heard some say, “I’ve worked hard to achieve this state of comfort,” but sadly there is a self serving society that are empty taking or having no time to enjoy what they have. Why because perhaps they are not serving their purpose. “Progress apart from purpose ends in arrogance.” Nothing can or will compare to the feeling of giving. Nothing can or will compare to fulfilling someone else’s need. In return we gain a feeling of being valuable, wanted, needed, and loved.

MLK had that love within. You have that love within. We are not humane until we treat everyone as a human. That’s something we all need to work on.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader, an advocate for nonviolent. We knew him as a man of valor, but do we know the real force, the divine force that gave Martin Luther King Jr. the confidence, the tenacity, and his boldness; it was the Power of the Love of God emanating from his very being. That was Martin’s secret arson. He was a source of Power, a source of Agape/unconditional LOVE. He used love as a weapon. That Power of Love pushed him pass the force of humiliation of the water hose. The Power of Love buffered the head blows he received from the baton of the police. That Power of Divine Love ultimately led him passed the fear of the shadow of death to the divine, blissful, peak of the mountain top. Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated to us, to the whole world the Power of God’s love. That act of Love that empowers one to speak the TRUTH; the Truth of injustice; the Truth of racism, the Truth for the need of equality. That source of the Love of God pushed him past his human self. He allowed his journey of commitment by the Power of Love to over take him.

I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr. like us all had an inner fight, he had to persevere; he had to do a self examination and introspective truth search of who he was and why he was here. I’m sure he heard that same question God asked Adam, Where art thou, Martin? He carried his answer on a sign that stated, “I am a Man.” He became another man; a man who exposed and revealed the value of the struggle; the value of the fight from the inside out. The fight and the Power of God’s love oozing out of his very being gave him the power to forgive his haters. That Power of God’s love helped him turn his cheek to his torturers. No human power could have sustained what Martin Luther King Jr. endured. It was only the Power of the Love of God within.

I Corinthians 13:4-6 (Amplified Bible

4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. 

5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Loving one another that we know we should do, but how can you love others when you don’t love you.

How can you relate to MLK? ... Let the answer ring in your heart today. Let the REAL truth of who you are resound in your heart and mind.  If you need to come from behind the walls of insecurity — BE FREE. If you need to come from behind the walls of racism BE FREE, the walls of pride, and jealousy BE FREE. The gripping torment of fear BE FREE.  Maybe you are hiding behind the protection of things and objects of self comfort, BE FREE TODAY! BE FREE! Let Freedom ring! Let Freedom ring! LET FREEDOM RING!

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