Dharma Topic: MLK–Being Fully Human

Dharma Topic: MLK–Being Fully Human

Discussion date: Thu, Jan 19, 2006 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

The life of Martin Luther King Jr. touches each of us indifferent ways. When I think of MLK, I think first of his courage: hiswillingness at just 26 years of age to be the high-profile (and endangered)leader of the Montgomery boycott; his willingness as the civil rights movementspread to continue to advocate nonviolence and non-anger when peaceable peoplewere attacked and sometimes killed; and, in the last years of his life, toconnect the civil rights struggle in America to the War in Vietnam.

From where did that courage arise? What sustained it? MLKgave an answer many times in a sermon he called "The Three Dimensions ofa Complete Life." It was the sermon he gave in 1954, when he auditionedto be the minister at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. It was thesermon he gave at the New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago, in 1967, less thanone year before his death. He called the three dimensions the length, breadth,and height.

"Now the length of life as we shall use it here is the inward concern for one’s own welfare. In other words, it is that inward concern that causes one to push forward, to achieve his own goals and ambitions. The breadth of life as we shall use it here is the outward concern for the welfare of others. And the height of life is the upward reach for God. Now you got to have all three of these to have a complete life."

This Thursday, January 19, after our meditationperiod, we will read the excepts below on the MLK’s third dimension, ourrelation to an energy or force that is greater than us – often referred to inBuddhist circles as the ultimate or absolute dimension. If you would like toread the whole sermon (and hear some clips), it is available at http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/multimedia.html.

You are invited to join us for our meditation and ourdiscussion of what gave Martin Luther King Jr. strength and what gives usstrength.

The best times to join us on this Thursday evening are:

  • Just before the first sitting at 7 pm;

  • At 7:25, at the beginning of walking meditation; or,

  • At 7:35, at the beginning of the second sitting.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher


Excerpt from "The Three Dimensions of a CompleteLife" by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And I’m here to tell you today that we need God. (Yes)Modern man may know a great deal, but his knowledge does not eliminate God.(Right) And I tell you this morning that God is here to stay. A few theologiansare trying to say that God is dead. And I’ve been asking them about it becauseit disturbs me to know that God died and I didn’t have a chance to attend thefuneral. They haven’t been able to tell me yet the date of his death. Theyhaven’t been able to tell me yet who the coroner was that pronounced him dead.(Preach, preach) They haven’t been able to tell me yet where he’s buried.

You see, when I think about God, I know his name. He saidsomewhere, back in the Old Testament, "I want you to go out, Moses, andtell them ‘I Am’ sent you." (That’s right) He said just to make it clear,let them know that "my last name is the same as my first, ‘I Am that I Am.’Make that clear. I Am." And God is the only being in the universe that cansay "I Am" and put a period behind it. Each of us sitting here has tosay, "I am because of my parents; I am because of certain environmentalconditions; I am because of certain hereditary circumstances; I am because ofGod." But God is the only being that can just say, "I Am" andstop right there. "I Am that I Am." And He’s here to stay. Let nobodymake us feel that we don’t need God. (That’s right)

As I come to my conclusion this morning, I want to say thatwe should search for him. We were made for God, and we will be restless until wefind rest in him. (Oh yeah) And I say to you this morning that this is thepersonal faith that has kept me going. (Yes) I’m not worried about the future.You know, even on this race question, I’m not worried. I was down in Alabama theother day, and I started thinking about the state of Alabama where we worked sohard and may continue to elect the Wallaces. And down in my home state ofGeorgia, we have another sick governor by the name of Lester Maddox. (Yes) Andall of these things can get you confused, but they don’t worry me. (All right)Because the God that I worship is a God that has a way of saying even to kingsand even to governors, "Be still, and know that I am God." And God hasnot yet turned over this universe to Lester Maddox and Lurleen Wallace.Somewhere I read, "The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, and I’mgoing on because I have faith in Him. (Oh yeah) I do not know what the futureholds, but I do know who holds the future. (Yes) And if He’ll guide us and holdour hand, we’ll go on in.

I remember down in Montgomery, Alabama, an experience thatI’d like to share with you. When we were in the midst of the bus boycott, we hada marvelous old lady that we affectionately called Sister Pollard. She was awonderful lady about seventy-two years old and she was still working at thatage. (Yes) During the boycott she would walk every day to and from work. She wasone that somebody stopped one day and said, "Wouldn’t you like toride?" And she said, "No." And then the driver moved on andstopped and thought, and backed up a little and said, "Well, aren’t youtired?" She said, "Yes, my feets is tired, but my soul isrested." (All right)

She was a marvelous lady. And one week I can remember that Ihad gone through a very difficult week. (Yes) Threatening calls had come in allday and all night the night before, and I was beginning to falter and to getweak within and to lose my courage. (All right) And I never will forget that Iwent to the mass meeting that Monday night very discouraged and a little afraid,and wondering whether we were going to win the struggle. (Oh yeah) And I got upto make my talk that night, but it didn’t come out with strength and power.Sister Pollard came up to me after the meeting and said, "Son, what’s wrongwith you?" Said, "You didn’t talk strong enough tonight."

And I said, "Nothing is wrong, Sister Pollard, I’m allright."

She said, "You can’t fool me." Said,"Something wrong with you." And then she went on to say these words,"Is the white folks doing something to you that you don’t like?"

I said, "Everything is going to be all right, SisterPollard."

And then she finally said, "Now come close to me andlet me tell you something one more time, and I want you to hear it thistime." She said, "Now I done told you we is with you." She said,"Now, even if we ain’t with you, the Lord is with you." (Yes) And sheconcluded by saying, "The Lord’s going to take care of you."

And I’ve seen many things since that day. I’ve gone throughmany experiences since that night in Montgomery, Alabama. Since that time SisterPollard has died. Since that time I’ve been in more than eighteen jail cells.Since that time I’ve come perilously close to death at the hands of a dementedNegro woman. Since that time I’ve seen my home bombed three times. Since thattime I’ve had to live every day under the threat of death. Since that time I’vehad many frustrating and bewildering nights. But over and over again I can stillhear Sister Pollard’s words: "God’s going to take care of you." Sotoday I can face any man and any woman with my feet solidly placed on the groundand my head in the air because I know that when you are right, God will fightyour battle.

"Darker yet may be the night, harder yet may be thefight. Just stand up for that which is right." It seems that I can hear avoice speaking even this morning, saying to all of us, "Stand up for whatis right. Stand up for what is just. Lo, I will be with you even until the endof the world." Yes, I’ve seen the lightning flash. I’ve heard the thunderroll. I’ve felt sin-breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard thevoice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never toleave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me,never to leave me alone. And I go on in believing that. Reach out and find thebreadth of life.

You may not be able to define God in philosophical terms.Men through the ages have tried to talk about him. (Yes) Plato said that he wasthe Architectonic Good. Aristotle called him the Unmoved Mover. Hegel called himthe Absolute Whole. Then there was a man named Paul Tillich who called himBeing-Itself. We don’t need to know all of these high-sounding terms. (Yes)Maybe we have to know him and discover him another way. (Oh yeah) One day youought to rise up and say, "I know him because he’s a lily of thevalley." (Yes) He’s a bright and morning star. (Yes) He’s a rose of Sharon.He’s a battle-axe in the time of Babylon. (Yes) And then somewhere you ought tojust reach out and say, "He’s my everything. He’s my mother and my father.He’s my sister and my brother. He’s a friend to the friendless." This isthe God of the universe. And if you believe in him and worship him, somethingwill happen in your life. You will smile when others around you are crying. Thisis the power of God.

Go out this morning. Love yourself, and that means rationaland healthy self-interest. You are commanded to do that. That’s the length oflife. Then follow that: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. You arecommanded to do that. That’s the breadth of life. And I’m going to take my seatnow by letting you know that there’s a first and even greater commandment:"Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, (Yeah) with all thy soul, withall thy strength." I think the psychologist would just say with all thypersonality. And when you do that, you’ve got the breadth of life.

And when you get all three of these together, you can walkand never get weary. You can look up and see the morning stars singing together,and the sons of God shouting for joy. When you get all of these working togetherin your very life, judgment will roll down like waters, and righteousness like amighty stream.

When you get all the three of these together, the lamb willlie down with the lion.

When you get all three of these together, you look up andevery valley will be exalted, and every hill and mountain will be made low; therough places will be made plain, and the crooked places straight; and the gloryof the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together.

When you get all three of these working together, you willdo unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

When you get all three of these together, you will recognizethat out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Jan 19, 2006


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