On our way to the Christian's Scholars Conference we stopped in Memphis so Jana and I could take Brenden and Aidan today to the National Civil Rights Museum. I had visited the museum once before and was looking forward to the boys being old enough to get something, spiritually speaking, out of the experience.
One of the powerful things about the Museum is that it doubles as a memorial. The museum is built into the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. You end your tour at the Museum at Room 306, the room MLK was saying in. You look out on the balcony where he died, the spot marked by a wreath.
This visit the tour opened with the new documentary short film The Witness. The trailer of The Witness can be seen here. Given that I cried multiple times during the film I walked out of the gift shop with a copy (plus some books, CDs, and DVDs as I continue to plot and plan for my Freedom Ride class).
The saddest scene in The Witness, and this gets me every time I see it, is watching MLK deliver his final sermon. You'll know it as his "Mountaintop" speech. These were the final words MLK ever preached, delivered on the evening of April 3, 1968:
"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything, I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."If you watch the video of that speech you can see how emotional Dr. King was that night. At the end of the sermon he almost collapses into the arms of his friends. As many have observed before, it was if, that night, he knew that his time was up. Dr. King had already told many of his friends that he wouldn't live to see his fortieth birthday. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed the day after his Mountaintop sermon on April 4, 1968.
He was thirty nine years old.