Martin Luther King Jr. was not always “Martin.” The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.
There is power in a name. Can you think of examples of how God changed a name for a person when they received a great calling. Abram became Abraham, Simon became Cephas (Peter) and there are many other examples too. What’s in a name? Not only did King, Sr change his name but the name of his son. I need to do more research now to understand what inspired this change. How can someone live most of their life and then, boom, “I’m changing my name?” What great calling would motivate someone to make this radical shift?
Now in hindsight we see what a tremendous world changer Martin Luther King, Jr was. Yet, to have that vision in 1934, when his son was five is quite amazing. Can you imagine the conversation with his wife or the grandparents? The “Great Reformer,” as Luther was called is the perfect moniker for the Great Civil Rights Leader. Caring about each persons value no matter what their color is a godly thing. We need people of vision, hope, and courage today to carry on the vision of both of these reformers.
I was privileged to speak at Rotary yesterday and share another pastor’s story during the Civil Rights Era. Matt Christy wrote, “This pastor’s name is Robert Graetz. On Monday, Bethany Lutheran Pastor Dennis Meyer told his story to the Rotary Club of La Porte.
“When asked about his decision, Graetz replied that the oppression of African Americans was so blatant in Montgomery, and was done in the name of Christ, that he (had to) get involved,” Meyer said.
Graetz was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery — a white pastor of a black congregation. Meyer told Graetz’s tale as an example of the Lutheran Church’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement, but reminded everyone it was just but one individual story from one domination. Hundreds of stories from dozens of denominations are out there to tell. http://www.heraldargus.com/news/people-of-courage/article_8562635c-fae2-5679-8dfe-0b7d90fe9ad4.html
As we honor King in the same week as the peaceful transition of the power of the president remember, we are called to stand together – even with the people we find disagreement. Conversation and compromise is necessary to find common ground.
So what name would you give yourself if you were to change it? What calling are you willing to take up to change the world for the better? Be courageous and…