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"Christ, The Center of Our Faith"

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: January 1, 1953 to December 31, 1955?

Genre: Sermon

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry

               Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


In this handwritten sermon outline, King reflects on the human tendency, for better or worse, to support causes based on personalities rather than ideologies. As he explores the impact of others on his life, King refers to Morehouse professor George D. Kelsey, who influenced his decision to attend seminary and his approach to pastoral ministry.

  1. Before men can devote their lives to a cause or a movement, they must find some person who, for them, becomes the personification or incarnation of that cause or movement. People always seek, not so much for some thing as for some one to believe in. They seek for some person that for them becomes the center of the cause. We often tell people to love the cause. But people cannot love a cause in abstract.

    1. People do not love Nazism first and foremost. They love Hitler and then Nazism through Hitler.
    2. Mussolini and Fasism
    3. Democracy and Lincoln & Jefferson Roosevet and Wilson, Truman and Eisenhower.1

    We humans inevitably believes at last not in isms but in incarnations.

  2. This It is ultimately personality that shapes the course of history. We live in a generation in which impersonal forces are considered the the determining factors of human life.

    1. The biological materialist—heredity & [genes?]
    2. There are those who would say that geography and climate account for the whole human story.
    3. The Marxist are economic determinists.

    But when we look further we discover that it is persons that most deeply influence our lives.

    What does all of this have to do with our central theme.

    1. Experience in college with George Kelsey2
    2. Throughout life that which influences us most is persons.
  3. Christianity has no meaning devoid of Christ. The noble principles of Christianity remain abstract until they are personified in a person called Christ.

    1. Christ becomes the center or the pivotal point around which everything revolves in the Christian faith revolves.
    2. This is what the book of revelation means when it says He King of Kings and Lord of Lord.3 He is the center not only of our faith, but of history and all nations must bow before him.

    This is the ringing affirmation of Christmas—that a personality has come in the world to split history into A.D. and B.C.

    1. The thing that Christ brought into the world was not a new set of doctrines, not new teachings, but a great personality.

1. King’s inclusion of Eisenhower at the end of a list of presidents suggests that he prepared this sermon after January 1953. It is also likely that he composed it before the Montgomery bus boycott began in December 1955, since afterwards he spoke of his own leadership in more humble terms: “I want you to know that if M. L. King had never been born this movement would have taken place” (Willie Mae Lee, Notes on Montgomery Improvement Association [MIA] Mass Meeting at First Baptist Church, 30 January 1956, in Papers 3:114).

2. Regarding Kelsey’s influence, King later noted: “Two men, Dr. Benjamin Mays, president of Morehouse, and Dr. George Kelsey, professor of philosophy and religion, made me stop and think. Both were ministers, both deeply religious, and yet both were learned men, aware of all the trends of modern thinking. I could see in their lives the ideal of what I wanted a minister to be” (William Peters, “Our Weapon is Love,” Redbook [August 1956]: 72).

3. Cf. Revelation 17:14, 19:16.

Source: CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 70, "Christ the Center of Our Faith" / "How to Believe in a Good God in the Midst of Glaring Evil."

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