It will be a shame if Martin Luther King, Jr. is caught in amber as a mere civil-rights icon when, in fact, he was first and foremost a spiritual master (thanks to Brownstoner for the link). These timely and timeless words (from a Stanford University transcript of a 1966 sermon) find a grateful listener at the CrazyStable, where brokenness of all sorts is a fact of life:
...Broken-heartedness is a fact of life. Don’t try to escape when you come to that experience. Don't try to repress it. Don't end up in cynicism. Don't get mean when you come to that experience. (Make it plain) The church must say to men and woman that Good Friday (Yes, sir) is a fact of life. The church must say to people that failure is a fact of' life. Some people are only conditioned to success. They are only conditioned to fulfillment. Then when the trials and the burdens of life unfold, they can't stand up with it. But the church must tell men (Yes, sir) that Good Friday’s as much a fact of life as Easter; failure is as much a fact of life as success; disappointment is as much a fact of life as fulfillment. And the church must tell men to take your burden, (Yes, sir) take your grief and look at it, don't run from it. Say that this is my grief (Yes, sir) and I must bear it. (Yes) Look at it hard enough and say, "How can I transform this liability into an asset?" (Yes)
This is the power that God gives you. He doesn't say that you're going to escape tension; he doesn't say that you're going to escape disappointment; he doesn't say that you’re going to escape trials and tribulations. But what religion does say is this: that if you have faith in God, (Yes) that God has the power (Yes, sir) to give you a kind of inner equilibrium through your pain. So let not your heart be troubled.
(Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, on 5 June 1966)
Take a few moments and read the whole thing, a miniature symphony of power, tenderness, and impeccable theology, here. Civil rights is in there, but the broader sweep of King's preaching frees him from his museum case as a "historical figure" with a Monday-falling holiday and plants him squarely back among us.