Easter Weekend 1963 - A Witness for Today

For pastors there is no more important Sunday to be in church than Easter. This is nearly always the highest attended service of the year with well planned and inspiriing music and sermon. Yet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made an intentional decision not to be in his church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, for Easter 1963. Instead he chose to go to jail on Good Friday as part of the civil rights campaign in Birmingham, AL. He stayed in jail for a week. Although he did not have the chance to deliver a sermon that Easter, while in jail he wrote what would become a literary and religious classic - The Letter From the Birmingham City Jail. He wrote this on scraps of paper in response to an article by eight prominent white clergy who criticized the demonstrations while calling for patience while pursuing desegregation through the courts. Dr. King responded with a masterpiece describing both the humiliation and terror inflicted by segregation as well as imploring the Church to live into the calling of love and justice for all instead of advocating the status quo. Watch the video clip below from the documentary Citizen King that puts Dr. King's witness of Easter 1963 into the larger context of the Birmingham campaign. As we celebrate Easter this year, how are we called today to witness to the resurrection of Jesus through God's ongoing call to love and justice for all especially when this challenges the status quo? Easter 1963 reminds us that our witness must go beyond worship in the sanctuary to living the way of Jesus' non-violent, self-sacrificial, redemptive love in all our relationships.