Blog Post by Rev. Elizabeth “Liz” Kanerva
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Associate Leader

My father was a veteran and on Memorial Day I have found myself wandering among the markers at Jefferson Barracks pausing here and there reflecting on the steep cost of war. Independence Day is celebrated with parades, picnics, and good friends. It is a day to remember the founding of our republic and a day on which I have come to ponder the fragility of democracy. Labor Day marks the end of summer with gratitude for work and a rest from our labors. Our national holidays are ones of remembrance, gratitude, celebration, reflection, & mourning. There is one more fast approaching on the calendar with another opportunity for reflection and service.

Established in 1983, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is a day that both honors the legacy of Dr. King and calls people to public service. In fact, it is the only national holiday intentionally dedicated to service. I confess I’ve been better at the honoring part of the day and not so much the serving part.

Per the website, the “National Day of Service is a defining moment each year when Americans across the country step up to make communities more equitable and take action to create the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream. While Dr. King believed the Beloved Community was possible, he acknowledged and fought for systemic change. His example is our call to action. During the last quarter-century, the MLK Day of Service has grown, and its impact increased as more Americans embraced the idea that citizenship involves taking an active role in improving communities.”

At its last meeting, the Public Witness Team sent out a note to its database of churches encouraging congregations to participate in the annual MLK Day of Service on January 16, 2023. Rev. Carleton Stock wrote, “The idea is to get a group of people from the church to participate in a service project on or near that date to help people improve their community and their lives in some way.  And it is a way to continue the legacy of Dr. King and his life-long, life-sacrificing commitment to heal divisions and address racial discrimination in our country and world.”

I don’t know what GLPBY churches have planned to mark the day, but a quick google search will give one plenty of ideas on how one might honor it simple ways. Sometimes I get myself stuck because I think my participation must be big & elaborate, part of a large group focused on making an IMPACT! And, indeed, there are those kinds of opportunities planned. But there are other opportunities and ideas on serving which may be more achievable and a better fit and they are equally important. I was struck by this well-known quote of Dr. King’s,

“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So maybe you’ll find yourself cleaning and organizing the food pantry. Or perhaps picking up litter on a well-traveled street. The possibilities are endless. However, you choose to serve, do so grounded in the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Go out and share the good news of the gospel with hands and feet of service, and words of peace for all.

Image of Liz Kanerva, Assoc Presbytery LeaderRev. Elizabeth “Liz” Kanerva
Associate Leader
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

1 Comment

  • Posted January 10, 2023 7:15 pm
    Julie Burchett

    Webster Groves Presbyterian Church’s high school
    Youth group is doing an MLK Day service project called Detergent and Donut Drive-Thru. We volunteered at Isaiah 58 for our Mission Sunday last October and found out they never seem to have enough laundry detergent for their clients. So we have advertised that our congregation should all bring a jug of laundry detergent this Sunday. They will drive thru our parking lot to drop it off and we will give them a Krispy Kreme donut in return!

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