Knocking at Midnight: Martin Luther King, Jr.

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

I like to look for less familiar text for Martin Luther King’s birthday. Unfortunately, soundbites from his I Have a Dream speech, for instance, have been so torn from its context as to make it unrecognizable.

A Knock at Midnight (found here [PDF]) was delivered on 14 September 1958. It has some Cold War references that I removed, not because there aren’t modern day equivalents, but for clarity, and an attempt at brevity. The text was based on Luke 11:5-6, RSV: “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”? It’s all MLK until the end.

Although this parable is concerned with the power of persistent prayer, it may also serve as a basis for our thought concerning many contemporary problems and the role of the church in grappling with them. It is midnight in the parable; it is also midnight in our world, and the darkness is so deep that we can hardly see which way to turn…

Midnight is the hour when men desperately seek to obey the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught.” Continue reading “Knocking at Midnight: Martin Luther King, Jr.”