Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 12, 2025)

Some Alternate Texts

      Old Testament:
In Amos 5.21-24 God decries our pious worship (“your solemn assemblies… the noise of your songs”) and pleads, in those words often quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Righteousness does not mean being right, but right relationships.)

Isaiah 42.1-9 envisions God’s chosen servant as one who humbly brings justice. Justice is not retribution but lifting up the powerless.

Isaiah 61.1-2a is referred to in next week’s Gospel text: “The Spirit of God is upon me to bring good news to the poor.” (It’s appropriate to stop the reading at “to proclaim the time of God’s favor” and omit “the vengeance of God”—as Jesus does in Luke 4.19, emphasizing his nonviolence.)


Psalm 37:
don’t lose courage because of injustice. Commit, and God will support you. The nonviolent shall inherit the land.

Psalm 72 celebrates the king’s justice: to advocate for the weak, to defend the cause of the poor, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

    New Testament

James 1.22-27 asks us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers. Religion is not in our heads: it is to care for the powerless. To be “unstained by the world” doesn’t mean to avoid getting our hands dirty but to avoid adopting the world’s values.

1 Peter 2.19-23 invites us to endure unjust suffering without returning evil, citing Jesus’ nonviolence: “when he was abused he did not return abuse.” (This does not include needless suffering. We are not asked to endure abuse passively, but to refrain from being abusive. Despite the fact that verse 18 counsels slaves to submit, we should not take this scripture as condoning either slavery or abuse, but rather nonviolence.)


In next weeks’ lectionary text, Luke 4. 16-21, Jesus reads Isaiah 61.1-2, and then says that this prophecy is fulfilled, for this is Jesus’ own calling (and that of everyone filled by the Spirit): to bring good news to the poor and liberation to the oppressed.
The lectionary text for Jan. 30: Luke 4. 21-30: Jesus reminds his hearers of God’s acceptance of foreigners and outsiders. His audience, wanting to maintain the distinction between insiders and outsiders, reject his message of God’s inclusivity, and reject Jesus himself. It foreshadow the cross, the culture’s resistance to justice.

Guiding thoughts

In scripture “justice” does not mean people get what they deserve, but that people get what they need to fulfill God’s calling in their lives. It is not retributive justice, punishment meted out for past acts, but restorative justice, actions that restore well-being among all people, especially those who have been harmed or oppressed. “Justice” is closely related to righteousness—not being right, but being in right relationships, harmonious relationships that provide equally for everyone’s well-being. In God’s justice everyone is of equal worth regardless of status, power, wealth, health, or even past behavior. We are “justified” as in printing: aligned with the margins. “Justified print” is a fruitful metaphor for how God invites us all to share the risk of the margins, and not consider anyone or any group to be exclusively the “center.” How have we sinfully kept or coveted the “center” for ourselves, while pushing others to the margins? What do we need to do—and how does God empower us— to align ourselves equally with others at the margins?

Call to Worship

Leader: God of justice, the poor of the world cry out.
All: You are among them, and your cry goes out to the ends of the world.
Evil stalks the earth, and oppression hides everywhere.
But you are among us, and your Spirit breathes a new Creation.
Unseeing, we are caught in webs of injustice.
But you are among us, and your love transforms our hearts.
We worship you in awe and humility.
Speak your Word to us. Open our eyes. Give us courage and wisdom,
that we may do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you,
for the sake of the mending of the world.

Leader: God, you created the world whole.
All: But we have broken it: fractures and divisions abound.
Still, y
our grace remains.
Even now you are healing what is wounded.
We come to give you thanks.
We come to give you our hearts and our hands,
that we may join you in the mending of the world.
We worship in gratitude, in confidence, in joy!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of justice, we worship you in a world of injustice. The evils around us challenge our faith that you are in charge. But your grace is greater than our sin. Your justice is more powerful than our wrongdoing. Speak to us; renew our faith; rekindle our courage. In the spirit of those who have gone before us, in the company of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., lead us on. Make us your faithful people. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

The United Methodist Social Creed

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
Leader: God of justice, we accept the Spirit you give us to follow Jesus,
to proclaim your Realm of Grace.
We give thanks that you cherish this Creation and care for it,
All: and we shall do the same.
We lament our corporate sin of poverty, discrimination and violence,
and give thanks that Jesus came among us in forgiveness, healing and reconciliation;
and we shall do the same.
We give thanks for those prophets among us
who have spoken and acted in faith and in peace for the sake of justice;
and we shall do the same.
We give thanks for those who have honored the gift of our diversity,
who have labored and sacrificed to break down barriers of hate,
who in love have made strangers into siblings and enemies into friends;
and we shall do the same.
God grant us faith and courage to pray and to speak, to work and to live
for the sake of the coming of your Realm of Grace, in the name and Spirit of Jesus.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, in gratitude for all you have given us, and in faithful stewardship of what you have placed in our hands to share with the world, we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. Send us as disciples of Jesus to follow in faith, to proclaim your Realm with courage, and to help create a world of love, freedom, beauty and joy, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear audio clips, on the Music page)

See all songs with “justice” tags, especially these:

Breath of God (Tune: Londonderry Air, O Danny Boy)

O Holy One, Creator of the stars of night,
whose dust we are, created with your light,
now breathe your spirit into us and give us life;
give us new hearts that beat with your delight.
Our dust and ashes, Love, we give in faith to you.
Receive our lives, our sin, our wounds, our death;
and raise us up with Christ from death to life by grace.
God, may we be your love and you our living breath.

Breathe into us the breath of your compassion, God,
the breath to sing your praise in all we do,
the breath to run the race of justice, long and far.
Breathe, holy breath: empower and renew.
O be the grace that fills our lungs, reviving us;
O be the wind on which our hearts can soar;
O be our life, our beauty and our living breath.
O Spirit, come breathe in us now and evermore.

Do Justice (Original Song)
Do Justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.
Love, help us humbly live your justice, your love, your mercy.

God, We Are Broken (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are broken, for all flesh is weak.
Grant us the healing and peace that we seek.
For all that pains us, beyond our control,
grant us your healing, our bodies made whole.

God, we are broken; our hearts are not one.
Sometimes it seems that our souls come undone.
Bring us renewal and calm in our soul.
Grant us your healing and make our hearts whole.

God, we are broken: for families and friends
suffer when love fails and faithfulness ends.
May your forgiveness and grace play its role.
Grant us your healing; make covenants whole.

God, we are broken, for many are poor,
and we ignore those who lie by our door.
God, may your justice like great rivers roll.
Grant us your healing; make all people whole.

God, we are broken for hate and all war
wound us so we are not free anymore.
Make us one people from pole to pole.
Grant us your healing, and make the world whole.

Lead on, O God of justice
Tune: LANCASHIRE (Lead on, O King Eternal)

Lead on, O God of justice. Your vision calls us forth:
to life where all are cherished, and know their sacred worth,
where all have what they need to be who they can be,
and all know their belonging and live in peace and free.

Lead on, O God of justice, as Jesus shows the way,
and gives to us your Spirit, and guides us day by day.
Your courage and compassion, your love flow through our veins
for those we cast aside, who bear oppression’s chains.

Lead on, O God of justice. Your fiery pillar burn
in us to heal the world, to make injustice turn.
To change our evil systems your Spirit sets us free.
Though long the road and tiring, you bear us faithfully.

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