If I could pray to Saint Martin…

I wonder what my prayers would look like if an Evangelical Protestant like myself was allowed to pray to canonized saints.

I wonder what my prayers would look like if they were addressing slain prophet Martin Luther King Jr..

What would we talk about?

Of course…good Pentecostal that I am I would expect two-way communication. I would expect a response from the person I am addressing.

But if I could pray to St. Martin what would the conversation be like?

Although I do not believe in praying to saints (no disrespect to my Catholic brothers and sisters) I wonder what a prayer session with St. Martin would be like.

Can you imagine that?

What will he say to me?

Sunday Opening Petition:

St. Martin,

Patron Saint of earth-shattering justice, peace, and love what do you think about all those monuments, streets, boulevards, parades, and highways named in your honor? How would you like to be honored?

How do we preach and give witness to the gospel today?

How should we Dream today?

St. Martin,

Patron Saint of earth-shattering justice, peace, and love what do you think about all those monuments, streets, boulevards, parades, and highways named in your honor? How would you like to be honored?

I offer this petition to you while reflecting on one of the seven woes given by Jesus to the Pharisees in the way they venerated the prophets of Israel’s past:

Matthew 23:29-32:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

St. Martin I can not help but possess a bitter/sweetness in the way our society venerates you as a Civil Rights leader and prophet. It is sweet in that venerating you is a sort of invasion of the pantheon and panopticon whiteness that continues to pervade our culture. I see the foisting of your name, some of your words, some of your ideas, and symbols as an interruption of our regularly scheduled cultural broadcast. Your entering into the pantheon of American heros is an apocalyptic event that uncovers that powerful performance called race. The recognition of your presence by many seems to suggest that the ‘other’ is beginning to break through the tyrannical same-ness of Euro-centrism and white supremacy. It also says that a level of goodness has progressed in our society.

But it is bitter as well. In the gospel story I mentioned earlier the prophets were venerated post-mortem by those interested in maintaining the status-quo. Jesus suggests that the prophets would have been killed by those same prophet-venerating Pharisees had they lived in their time. I see the way we honor you in this same light. There is a certain image of you that has been created by those at the center of things that has become quite comfortable. It is the Dreaming King they love. But what of the King that wanted to turn over the moneychanger’s tables of American political-economy? The King that mourned our cultural habits of thingification and crass materialism? The King that railed against a nation, in madness, in its use of violence towards others? The King that opposed the war in Vietnam and making the connections between imperialism, poverty, and racism? That King. Have we honored you faithfully?

(St. Martin responds)

Brother Anthony I can see that you have zeal for social justice. I too shared that zeal. It would culminate in my message about that Beloved Community. It would get me killed at a young age whereby I would miss out on the raising and growing up of my children and growing old with my precious wife. I know this zeal more than you know. It is like that old prophet once said, “its like fire shutup in my bones.” It is the drunkeness that comes from having tasted the goodness, mercy, and justice of God. That community that is but not yet. What Jesus referred to as the kingdom of God.

As I recall I never claimed myself to be a prophet. I just did the work of one. If you were to do a brief survey of the Hebrew prophets it was the ‘dabar’ of God (word of the Lord) of the prophet that made one a prophet. The prophet is a messenger sent by God to deliver a ‘word’. So the question is never really about are we honoring the prophet. The question is this: are we honoring the ‘word’ the prophet proclaimed before God and the people. I don’t really care if people honor ‘me’ perse. I care about whether or not people honor the ‘word’ that cost me my life. A word that played a part in bringing about the liberation of millions of people. A ‘word’ that would inspire other movements of social change in my day.

My question to you brother Anthony and those listening in on your prayer session is this:

When they build those monuments, those street signs, special News reports, when McDonalds has a special meal deal in my honor, when the Postal Service creates a special stamp in honor of me….are they honoring the ‘word’ I was sent to deliver? If not, then I’d have to say that to the extent that they do not honor the word of the Lord I proclaimed then they do not honor me. For my life was given as a love offering to the world because of that ‘word’.


But Martin. What was that word of the Lord that was like fire shutup in your bones? What was the word that would cause you to proclaim in your last sermon, “I am not fearing any man…I am here to do God’s will.” What is that word of the Lord that may be partially honored today in our culture? If we are not honoring the total word you preached, then what are we honoring when we say we honor you?

(Martin Responds)

I think we need to pray more on this brother Anthony. For the hour is late and you have a family to attend to. We’ll continue this prayer session tomorrow. However, I will give you a brief answer to reflect on before our next session. Forgive me for answering a question with a question: have mountains been made low and valleys raised? To extent that we do not incarnate that word is the extent to which I am not honored nor the word of the Lord that I was sent to proclaim. We’ll continue tomorrow. Shalom

St. Martin,

How do we preach and give witness to the gospel today?


Good question brother Anthony. A simple but complex answer would be needed. But since this is a prayer session I am hoping there are those out there joing in that will have ears to hear. The preaching of the gospel and giving witness are essentially the same powerful performance. As we all learned in Sunday School: the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

It is the power of God to deliver slaves from Egypt and it is the power of God to deliver a first century Palestinian peasant from the political-economic death grip of the Roman Empire.

To preach the gospel faithfully in our generation we must recapture the radical subversive message of the Nazarene and his disciples.

The gospel is the proclamation that the kingdom of God has come, is come, and will come. It is here but not yet. Our preaching of the gospel must re-focus on the here without neglecting the not yet. For it is the not yet that informs our here. I’d suggest that Christians in the West revisit the Hebrew prophets and move beyond the individualizing and gnostic tendencies when they think gospel.

When the gospel is preached the oppressed are liberated…not just in their ‘hearts’ but in their body-politic.

Anything less is to deny the resurrection of the Son of God and the pouring out of the Holy Ghost!


10 thoughts on “If I could pray to Saint Martin…

Add yours

      1. Postmodernnegro,

        It is response to your post because it captures in part what you are saying. That although we hold much respect for Dr. King and what he represented, that Jesus is the only true hero who can fulfill what King preached.

      2. Ok. I was curious because I do not separate the work of Christ from the justice-work of Dr. King. I see Christ working through the service of King. That’s why I find the dichotomy a bit strange. Christ is glorified through the work of King. King was a preacher of the gospel. That’s why I was asking for the relationship between this and that post. Because the person that posted the distinction between King and Christ seems to have made a wide chasm between the two. That’s all. A chasm that becomes necessary if one’s confession is that Jesus is raised from the dead and working through His people through the truth-guiding prescence of the Holy Spirit.

  1. well, i’m a bit late finding this blog and even though you wrote this piece for 2011, I find it helpful this MLK weekend. I’m glad I found your stuff. I guess I’m a sort of a “postmodern Negro” myself; thanks for your work.

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