Each year, the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Sunday of January with a worship service and a reminder to serve God’s people. This year, the celebration will be held at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 3099 Chapel Hill Road in Douglasville, GA. There is connection between Martin Luther King and Martin Luther. Dr.King was born Michael Luther King Jr. But his father, who found the teachings of Martin Luther so inspiring, renamed himself Martin Luther King. As Martin Luther changed the face of religion, so Martin Luther King, Jr was to change the face of this country. And for this we celebrate this great American.
As Dr. King has been called the drum major for justice, the theme this year as in years before will be social justice but this year with a call for Advocacy for those who suffer poor health. Our speaker this year is Dr. Ulysses Burley, a graduate of Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater, and a medical doctor who specializes in social justice as it relates to disease. He is a medical researcher at Northwestern University and is active with the ELCA as a delegate to the Lutheran World Federation and the European Worldwide Conference on health.
Dr. Burley is a young man who has connected his faith to justice. As an advocate for those who suffer, he compels a regard for the sick remembering that” where there is faith there is justice, and where there justice, there walks Christ.” Our Lord had a special affinity for the sick. He had compassion for them, healing them, admonishing us to visit them, and in the case of death, raising them from the dead. Yes, Matthew tells us that Jesus cared for the sick. The gospel according to Mark tells of how all who were sick were brought to Jesus and he cured them. In Luke, we learn how he called the twelve disciples and gave them power to cure diseases as they carried the good news. One of the signs that Jesus performed that pointed to who he is was to heal a royal official’s son. So it seems fitting that we, as people of faith, also comfort the sick and advocate for their care.
As we broaden our push for justice for all people, let us remember those who are disabled, those who suffer from debilitating illness and those who suffer diseases that isolate them from our communities. In keeping with the love Jesus had for all who are oppressed, and in keeping with the theme of justice embraced by Dr. KIng, let us live out our faith in love and advocacy for all; no matter the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or their religious affiliation as we promote awareness and support of those who are in need of health care.
St. John’s, we can help. Many of the health issues in the world come from hunger, poor nutrition and lack of education. On Monday, January 21, 2013, our Synod joins the Clarkston Community Center, Lutheran Services of Georgia, The Lutheran Theological center in Atlanta, Clarkston United Methodist Church and Clarkston Community Foundation in a Day of Service. Rice is gathered and packed and pots and pans for cooking are collected and distributed for refugees. Literacy is essential in promoting understanding of health issues and prevention of disease therefore books are being collected and distributed to promote learning.
Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. day is a great opportunity for worshiping together and serving God’s people. Let’s not miss it.