MLK Monument

Last Wednesday, April 4th, I had the privilege of taking part in a silent prayer walk through the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It was my first time there. I was filled with mixed yet deep emotion being there on that day, especially.

This silent sojourn was both a commemoration of Dr. King’s assassination 50 years ago and a political statement by those assembled that hate and death had not won and the movement to end racism and build the beloved community is alive!

I had to hold back my tears as we quietly moved through the “Mountain of Despair.” With reverence and trembling hand, I touched the base of the “Stone of Hope” as I moved to exit that place made holy by the sacrifice of one whose life was cut short but whose spirit of love and courage lived on.

I thought of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome as they made their way to the tomb to care for Jesus body. The one whose life was cut short–but they had not realized yet that he had risen.

I find that their presence that early morning was both pastoral and political. They came to care for Jesus’ body, to perform a ritual and to bless him unto rest. They showed up despite potential risk given that Jesus was executed as a subversive enemy of the state, forsaken by the religious leaders.

I am not saying those of us gathered took risks like these women did by visiting the memorial in DC. Actually, speaking for myself—it took no risk at all to show up. But the stone I touched helped me visualize the stone the women had seen cover the tomb, now rolled away. And I felt a stirring.

Like the three women, we didn’t stay at the memorial. Like the three women, we had a story to tell and work to do. Like the three women, we were filled and led by a spirit of resurrection courage!

Our moving from silent prayer to prayerful action is exactly the type of risk-taking those women exemplified in the resurrection story.

And so the silent prayer vigil gave way to a rallying cry to end racism! Thousands of folx from varying faith communities gathered in a spirit of renewed commitment to, as shared on the official website,

“challenge ourselves and our communities to join in truth-telling, leading to actions that right the wrongs, and, with God’s grace, bring healing and wholeness to all people, and unity to the nation.

  • AWAKEN ourselves to the truth that racism is ever-present, deeply rooted in American culture, and profoundly damaging to our communities.
  • CONFRONT racism, speak truth to ourselves, our communities and institutions, and stand against injustice.
  • TRANSFORM the hearts, minds, and behaviors of people and structures that shape society.”

This work most definitely requires some resurrection courage!

And as I shared on Easter Sunday, the same resurrection courage that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome felt and owned on that early morning long ago is needed more than ever.

Now more than ever we are called to a movement of truth-telling in a world determined to squash our stories, hell-bent on distorting them in political rhetoric, twisting them in twitter frenzies and pimping them for profit and gain.

Not just on Resurrection Sunday, nor only on anniversaries of assassinations —but each morning when we wake to yet another injustice—we are called to remind the world that death, destruction, and despair do not have the final word!

Resurrection courage is yet at work around us and within us—calling out to us to proclaim to a dying world that Jesus is risen—just like he said he would! Jesus walks before us, setting a path of righteousness and power, calling and leading us with love and grace to become the beloved community.

To live and not die.

To speak and vote justice.

To pray and to rally.

To be the people of God—filled with resurrection courage and resurrection power.

Beloved by God.

Ashé. Selah. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she, her, hers, ella) is a soulful, womanist minister, teacher and learner and is committed to the liberation of oppressed peoples, building power and creating community. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, three children and eight grandchildren (!) and currently serves as executive director of A Just Harvest, pastor at San Lucas UCC and Namasté UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

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