President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966
President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966

Martin Luther King: ‘A Symbol of God’s Love’

“We all think of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights era, but I would suggest to you that he is simply a symbol of God’s love.”

The Rev. Canon Lynn A. Collins, D. Min., guest preacher at Trinity Church on Martin Luther King Sunday, January 15, shared this message in her sermon at the 11:15 am Eucharist, adding that “it was Dr. King, in his obedience to God, who put on the full armor of God to help move this country into a collective consciousness of love.”

“He helped move us to a collective mindset to understand that love can bring about peace – that love can wrestle with the demons of segregation, racism, sexism, classism, discrimination, and it can combat social and economic injustice,” said Canon Collins, noting that “we have come along way since marching on Washington with Dr. King.”

Over the ensuing decades, the strides in this country have been many, she noted – women have gained equal rights, many people have gained the right to vote, and other ethnic brothers and sisters are welcomed in America (“we hope,” she added).

“But what was the purpose of Dr. King being obedient to the words of God if all we do on this holiday is go shopping to our favorite department store because they’re holding a Martin Luther King Day sale today?” asked Canon Collins.

Having come this far, she stressed, the challenge becomes to retain “our own spiritual compass…and we just can’t get tired.”

“As we continue in our journey, let us continue to remember that as long as one of us is in bondage, we all are in bondage,” she said.

“Let us continue to remember that God loves each and every one of us, and let us always remember that we shall overcome, because God’s Holy Spirit is in us and he has called us to the do the work here on earth that Christ himself has done.”

During a Q&A afternoon forum sponsored by the Task Force Against Racism, Canon Collins pointed out that she didn’t quote any of Dr. King’s famous speeches in her sermon because she prefers to “talk bout what we can do today” rather than focus on words. As examples, she stressed the importance of learning to love and forgive each other.

“Forgiveness is a choice – we have to choose to forgive,” she said. “We also have to learn to love, not just accept, each other.”

Canon Collins received her Master’s of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry from New York Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of the Harvard University Leadership Program.

In 1991, she was named rector of St. Paul’s Church in East Cleveland, Ohio, and in 1995 she joined the Presiding Bishop’s staff and became the first black female appointed as staff officer for Black Episcopal Ministries.