A pause to honor the memory of a Christian pastor

By Rev. Richard Ploch | Jan 03, 2017
Photo by: Thinkstock

The Christian church has a long history of remembering those who faithfully followed Jesus during their time on Earth. Over the centuries, we have especially honored the apostles and others who died because of their witness.

In the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Christians were martyred, possibly as many as the previous centuries combined.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a courageous German Lutheran pastor who opposed Hitler’s monstrous genocide and was hanged in a concentration camp just days before the end of WWII in Europe.

Father Oscar Romero, a Salvadoran priest, spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture and was silenced by gunfire while offering mass.

In China, Wang Zhiming, virtually unknown outside of his homeland, was a teacher and minister named a counter-revolutionary and was eventually executed in a stadium before 10,000 people for speaking against sinful government practices.

All bore witness to Christ and paid with their lives.

For Americans, the most recognized Christian martyr in modern history is Baptist pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who, though assassinated in 1968, continues to be a power spiritual guide. He was a prophet who preached the Gospel, and churches, especially, should honor his Christ-like courage that brought crucial change through non-violence at a time of national unrest.

Without King’s call to refuse violence in response to brutality, the nation would likely have collapsed into greater bloodshed in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I love you just as the Father loves me … My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Dr. King’s call to end social segregation through love cost him his life.

Grace Church in the Mountains, 394 N. Haywood St., Waynesville, will have a Sunday morning worship on the day before the country commemorates Dr. King and the accomplishments. He peacefully achieved in an America that needed to cherish every child of God and grant each the same opportunities in life.

He was a prophet and martyr for the Gospel message and the only American pastor to be honored with a day of remembrance.

Two years before his death, Rev. Ploch was a student at Morris Brown College in Atlanta as a participant in an exchange program. In the spring of 1966, he twice heard King preach and met him briefly.

On Sunday, Jan. 8, Ploch will lead the Adult Forum at Grace Church in the Mountains and show portions of a new documentary that tells the story of the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., and his influence on his son.

On the following Sunday, Ploch will facilitate a conversation on the spiritual legacy of Dr. King Jr. had he lived, on Sunday, Jan. 15, which would have been his 88th birthday.

The Adult Forums begin each Sunday at 9:15 a.m. at the church, 394 North Haywood St., Waynesville. All are welcome.