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Celebrating the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

21st Century Africana

Introductory note: This worship service was celebrated on January 17, 2007, at the Wightman Chapel of the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The Center for Worship Resourcing posts it here so that churches and communities who may want to adapt it for use in their settings will have the benefit of this powerful recollection of the voice of Dr. King.

Gathering Meditation: It Takes Fire
(Based on Exodus 3:1-15)

It took a miraculous fire to get my attention. No loss of life. No burned out homes.
No crowds to gawk and gaze. It was a private fire meant only for me.
"Come."
"Here I am."
"Not too close. Remove your shoes. This place is holy."

God puts holy fire into our mouths to speak truth to power.
How long will bullies frighten children? How long will "higher-ups" oppress the rank and file? How long will drug dealers hook innocents? How long will companies lose workers pensions? How long will people die in senseless conflict?

As long as fire in holy places goes unnoticed . . . and cool smoke rises where Christian passion once burned.


On March 25, 1965, in Montgomery, Alabama, God put holy fire into the mouth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who dared to speak truth to power. He urged a crowd, weary from well-doing, to keep on. He knew that many wondered if they could continue the struggle for justice. To them he said…

Read excerpt from "Our God is Marching On"by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

*Call to Worship: One Day

Leader: One day
Right Side: One day
Left Side: One day
All: One day, every valley gonna be filled;

Leader: One day
Left Side: One day
Right Side: One day
All: One day, every mountain and hill gonna be made low;

Right Side: One day
Leader: One day
Left Side: One day
All: One day, all the crooked gonna be made straight;

Leader: One day
Right and Left Sides: One day
All: One day, all the rough ways gonna be made smooth;

Leader: One day
Right and Left Sides: One day
Leader: One day
All: One day, God's gonna do it!
We're all gonna see it!

*Hymn: "Lift Every Voice and Sing," 519, United Methodist Hymnal

Prayer of Confession (unison)

Stony the road we have walked and yet we forget our footsteps. We have, too often, not honored the faith of our foreparents. We have, too often, strayed from the righteous path. We have, too often, been drunk on the wine of the world, and not lived out the radical gospel of service and peace. We have, too often, lived in division and sin. Forgive us, O God. Call us back to our heritage; back to you.

Assurance of Pardon

Christ is our peace and has torn down every barrier between us and heaven; between us and all humanity. He has broken down these barriers that separate, by his life, and has built us up into one body in God by the Spirit. Whoever repents and believes, he has promised reconciliation and peace. Let us live as people reconciled.
Amen.

Pass Signs of Peace and Reconciliation

One: Since we have been reconciled, let us share the peace that has been given us in grace. May the peace of God be with you.
Many: And also with you.

Choir Selections

*Scripture Reading: Micah 6:6-8

*Litany
(Based on Psalm 124)

One: If the LORD had not been on our side
Many: Let all the people say, if the LORD had not been on our side,

One: If the LORD had not been on our side — let Israel say —
Many: If the LORD had not been on our side when we were attacked, when anger flared like a flash fire against us.

One: If the LORD had not been on our side, our enemies would have swallowed us alive.
Many: Our ancestors would have all perished in the Middle Passage.

One: Our ancestors would have all died in slavery in the Americas
Many: If the LORD had not been on our side — let all the people say — if the Lord had not been on our side, the flood would have engulfed us.

One: If the LORD had not been with us, the torrent would have swept us into the seas; the raging waters would have swept us away.
Many: Praise the LORD who has not let us be torn by their teeth.

One: Praise the LORD, we have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare.
Many: Praise the LORD, the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.

One: Our help is in the name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.
Many: God is our help, the maker of heaven and earth.

ALL: Our help is in the name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

*Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-16

Introduction of Speaker

*Hymn: "If It Had Not Been for the Lord," 2053, The Faith We Sing (by Margaret Douroux)

Sermon

Response to the Word
*
Sung Response: "Certainly Lord," 678, African American Heritage Hymnal

*Benediction

*Closing Hymn

"Martin's Dream" by Jean and Drew Adams
Tune: AURELIA

Postlude


*Please stand as you are able.

Acknowledgements:
Selections from The Africana Worship Book, Copyright 2006 by Discipleship Resources. Used by permission.

"It Takes Fire," p. 42, by Kwasi Kena
"Litany of Affirmation, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon, Pass Signs of Peace and Reconciliation," pages 221-222, by Valerie Bridgeman Davis.

"One Day" by Tony Peterson for 21st Century Africana Resources for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C — December 10, 2006, posted on the Discipleship Ministries Worship website, and is used with permission.

"Martin's Dream"Words copyright © 2003 Jean and Drew Adams. Published by Discipleship Ministries, PO Box 340003, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Web site: www.umcworship.org. Telephone 615-340-7070. Used with permission.

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