Reflection on MLK’s “A Knock at Midnight”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon “A Knock at Midnight” addresses the need for all Christians to  align their hearts to the work of God. Given multiple times throughout 1967, the message from this sermon left many christians living in America asking themselves about the purpose of religion in their everyday lives.  There were many pivotal historical moments and events that happened during 1967; the peek of the Vietnam war, Muhammad Ali refusing to enlist into the military service, race riots of Detroit, Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, and heightened tensions as the Civil Rights Movement had gained its’ highest national momentum.

Martin Luther King Jr. uses the parable in Luke 11 to highlight “the midnight hour” as a metaphor of life. He states, “The first thing we notice in the parable is that it is midnight. It is also midnight in the world today. The darkness is so deep that we hardly see which way to turn.” He uses this metaphor to remind Christians that the man knocking was seeking three loaves of bread, which means there was a deep need and longing for his need to be satisfied; he was lonely and left to fend for himself in the dark. In the parable, these three loaves of bread represent the three principles essential to living an abundant life: faith, hope, love. Unfortunately, the man was left disappointed initially, but kept knocking because he knew there was bread in the house. Dr. King doesn’t finish the parable in his speech to state the reality that those who keep knocking, praying and seeking Christ will be heard and answered. I believe this was intentional for those listening to find a deeper underlying message.  The perseverance and persistence of the man reminds us that just because we have obtained the bread of life doesn’t mean our work is done. Our true test is our ability to serve and love those who are knocking on our door at midnight. King says, “Midnight is a confusing hour, and one in which it is difficult to be faithful, but the relevancy and power of the church will be measured by its’ capacity to meet the needs of those who come at midnight.” His message is simple, but extremely challenging: We should seek to love God and love people. Our true measure of love is our capacity to share the bread of life with those in the dark who are seeking faith, hope, and love.

MTR seeks to bridge the education gap in Memphis, by providing a quality education to all students regardless of their socio-economic status. As a response to Dr. King’s sermon, I urge us to keep our heart’s close to God and our hands linked with those in need. How many people have been knocking on our doors hoping to be given faith, love, and hope? Do we answer and deliver the bread of life or do we leave them lonely and disappointed? Do we allow the fear of who is knocking to dictate our call and conviction to answer the door?

Many times we miss the greater meaning and purpose of education because we are faced with so much pressure and overwhelmed with the daily grind of being involved with urban education. Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he stated, “As Christians, we must always keep a fresh loaf of bread at all times. Always be ready to answer the door when our friends are knocking. Remember to share faith, hope, and love.” During this time of reflection, my deepest hope for our MTR community is to diligently pursue and share faith, hope, and love. In the midst of such trying times, I believe Dr. King would remind us that his dream can only be accomplished through word and deed. When individuals are knocking at our door, let us all have the capacity and vision to respond with faith, hope, and love.

-DJ Singfield, MTR Alumnus and Staff Member