The Acceptable Year of the Lord – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today our nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  While many people know about The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., far fewer are familiar with any of his sermons beyond “I Have a Dream.”  I invite you to take a few minutes to read two excerpts from Dr. King’s sermon entitled “Guidelines for a Constructive Church,” which he preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on June 5, 1966.

This morning I would like to submit to you that we who are followers of Jesus Christ, and we who must keep his church going and keep it alive, also have certain basic guidelines to follow. Somewhere behind the dim mist of eternity, God set forth his guidelines. And through his prophets, and above all through his son Jesus Christ, he said that, “There are some things that my church must do. There are some guidelines that my church must follow.” And if we in the church don’t want the funds of grace cut off from the divine treasury, we’ve got to follow the guidelines. (That’s right) The guidelines are clearly set forth for us in some words uttered by our Lord and Master as he went in the temple one day, and he went back to Isaiah and quoted from him. And he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me (Yes, sir) to preach the gospel to the poor, (Yes, sir) he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, (Yes) to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

. . . And then the church, if it is true to its guidelines, must preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Yes, sir, Make it plain) You know the acceptable year of the Lord is the year that is acceptable to God because it fulfills the demands of his kingdom. Some people reading this passage feel that it’s talking about some period beyond history, (Make it plain) but I say to you this morning that the acceptable year of the Lord can be this year. (Yes) And the church is called to preach it.

The acceptable year of the Lord is any year (Amen) when men decide to do right.

The acceptable year of the Lord is any year when men will stop lying and cheating. (Amen, Make it plain)

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when women will start using the telephone for constructive purposes (Yes) and not to spread malicious gossip and false rumors on their neighbors. (Right)

The acceptable year of the Lord is any year (Any year) when men will stop throwing away the precious lives that God has given them in riotous living. (Make it plain)

The acceptable year of the Lord (Yes) is that year when people in Alabama (Make it plain) will stop killing civil rights workers and people who are simply engaged in the process of seeking their constitutional rights. (Make it plain)

The acceptable year of the Lord (Yes) is that year when men will learn to live together as brothers. (Yes, sir)

The acceptable year of the Lord (Yes) is that year when men will keep their theology abreast with their technology.

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when men will keep the ends for which they live abreast with the means by which they live. (Yes)

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year (That year) when men will keep their morality abreast with their mentality.

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year (Yes) when all of the leaders of the world will sit down at the conference table (Make it plain) and realize that unless mankind puts an end to war, war will put an end to mankind. (Yes)

The acceptable year of the Lord [clap] is that year when men will beat their swords into plowshares, (Yes) and their spears into pruning hooks: and nations will not rise up against nations, neither will they study war anymore. (Yes)

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year (That year) when men will allow justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Yes)

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when we will send to Congress and to state houses of our nation (Yes, sir) men who will do justly, (Yes) who will love mercy, (Yes) and who will walk humbly with their God. (Yes)

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year (Yes, sir) when every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain will be made low; the rough places would be made plain, and the crooked places straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when men will do unto others as they will have others do unto themselves. (Yes)

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when men will love their enemies, (Yes) bless them that curse them, pray for them that despitefully use them.

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when men discover that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. (Yes)

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess the name of Jesus. And everywhere men will cry out, “Hallelujah, hallelujah! The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah, hallelujah!”

The acceptable year of the Lord is God’s year. (Yes)

These are our guidelines, and if we will only follow the guidelines, we will be ready for God’s kingdom, (Yes) we will be doing what God’s church is called to do. We won’t be a little social club. (Make it plain) We won’t be a little entertainment center. But we’ll be about the serious business (Yes) of bringing God’s kingdom to this earth.

 

So What?

Dr. King’s words are as challenging and relevant today as they were in 1966.  The acceptable year of the Lord should guide the life and ministry of every believer and every congregation.  We are called to enact the reign/kingdom/realm of God.

  • How are you doing in this mission? What are your greatest strengths? What are some of your growing edges and how might you address each in 2011?
  • How is your congregation doing in this mission?  What are your congregation’s greatest strengths? What are some of your congregation’s growing edges and how might you address each in 2011?

Comments

  1. Jesus open the scriptures and declare that today these things are fulfilled in your ears (Isaiah 61) The acceptable year of the Lord is now for those who will believe…we rest in the finish work
    What a word from Dr. King. The things Adam gave up has been restored through Christ. The work is done …all we have to do is accept it and walk in it. Dr. King’s speech tell you of the atmosphere of this new thing that you will experience when you enter. He is a man that has had a real experienced with the true God. For example in Christ we love and not hate, show mercy and justice and walk humbly. We do not conform to this world, but we transform our world by the renewing of our minds. And wow….was Dr. Martin mind renewed…a totally different mindset and that why he changed his world….how about you.

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