Civil rights leader Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., would have turned 91 on January 15. Today, the United States observes this hero’s birthday with a national holiday (third Monday of January). I was thinking about him today, and I thought it’d be interesting to hear a complete sermon of his. This is one I found over at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.
- Audio: http://okra.stanford.edu/media/audio/DrumMajorInstinct.mp3
- Text: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/drum-major-instinct-sermon-delivered-ebenezer-baptist-church
Reverend King delivered this sermon on February 4, 1968, in Atlanta, Georgia – two months to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Known as the “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, it took place at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Reverend King was co-pastor with his father.
The sermon, which I recommend hearing in full, covers a wide variety of topics still very applicable nearly 52 years later. As its core, Reverend King uses Mark 10:35-44. James and John ask Jesus if they can sit at His right and left hands in His Kingdom. Ultimately, Jesus tells them it is not up to Him, but to His Father. When the other apostles complain about James and John’s question, Jesus also notes that the true leaders among them will serve everyone else.
As Reverend King notes in his sermon, “[W]e have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.”
The sermon is only about 38 minutes, yet covers:
- Human ego
- Compulsive-buying/keeping up with the Joneses
- Jesus’ life
As I mentioned, Reverend King was assassinated two months later. Eerily, he concludes this sermon with how he would like to be eulogized at his funeral. This would prove to be his last sermon at his home church. [Read his actual eulogy by Dr. Benjamin Mays.]
I want to close out today with a couple of verses chosen by JC in Reverend King’s honor that speak to the kind of harmony that everyone should be fighting to achieve here on Earth:
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.”
from Revelation 7:9
“And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.”
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.