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Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

Martin Luther King Jr.

Some of us are old enough to remember
     the balcony in Memphis,
     the sanitation workers' strike,
     the shot that broke flesh,
     the loss of Martin,
          and then the mule-drawn wagon, and the funeral,
          and the riots, the violence, the fear, and the failure.

All of us know the crowd in D.C.
   and "I Have a Dream,"
   the Birmingham jail,
   the broad stream of violence,
     and his steadfast nonviolence
          in Albany and
          in Skokie and
          in Selma.

All of us know his awesome, daring speech,
     his bravery, his hope, and his generative word.
And we know the relentlessness of our government in pursuit of him
     and the endless surveillance and harassment of this drum major for justice.

At this distance, we have little access
   to how it was then concerning ambiguity
          and fear
          and reluctance
          and violence
          and injustice.

We do not doubt that you have persisted
          even beyond Martin's passion,
          even beyond Martin's brilliance,
          even beyond Martin's fidelity, and his loss.

We do not doubt that through him and beyond him,
     you, holy God of the prophets,
          are still pledged to justice and
               peace and
               liberty for all.

We remember Martin in gratitude . . .
               and chagrin.
And we pledge, amid our stressed ambiguities,
          to dream as he did,
          to walk the walk,
          and to talk the talk of your coming kingdom.

We pledge, so sure that your truth
   will not stop its march
     until your will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

For over thirty years now, Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) has combined the best of critical scholarship with love for the local church in service to the kingdom of God. Now a professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, Brueggemann has authored over seventy books. Taken from his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), pp. 107–108.

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