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Judge Stanley L. Hill Delivers Remarks at MLK Celebration

Judge Stanley L. Hill delivered remarks at a Martin Luther King Day celebration at St. Augustine’s Cathedral African Orthodox Church on January 15. The church is located at 5831 S. Indiana in Chicago. Hill acknowledged the date, saying it was noteworthy because it would have been Dr. King’s 88th birthday.

During his remarks Hill referenced the landmark 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed the separate but equal doctrine and which ordered desegregation of public schools. He noted that he and African Orthodox Arch Priest Dr. Gessell Berry had benefitted from the legislation, and that he had achieved a 40 year legal career as a result.

Hill credited his mother for giving him confidence and a strong work ethic, and acknowledged the spiritual strength that has maintained him through life’s trials. He commented on the violence in our communities and drew on Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence, saying that our response to the violence in our communities “must be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.”

Cautioning listeners to serve the Lord with love and to order their steps in God’s Word, Hill concluded with prayer, thanking the Creator for our blessings and asking for peace in the New Year.

Editor’s note: Judge Stanley Hill is a Municipal Department judge who is assigned to the Fourth Municipal District. He hears a variety of matters on a rotating basis with the other Municipal Department judges in the Maywood courthouse.


Judge Stanley L. Hill

Remarks at St. Augustine’s Cathedral AO Church

5831 South Indiana Avenue

Chicago, Illinois 60637


Arch Priest Dr. Gessell Berry

January 15, 2017

Revised January 8, 2017 DRAFT St. Augustine’s Cathedral AO Church Sermon to Commemorate Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Good morning. Thank you for the introduction. Thank you Arch Priest Dr. Gessell Berry and Father Elywood Nyther, for inviting me to worship with my extended family here at St. Augustine’s Cathedral African Orthodox Church. This day is particularly noteworthy, because it immediately precedes our national commemoration of the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday. Today would be his 88th birthday. Dr. King was a prophet who shed light on the enduring and urgent tensions between white and black America over race and class. His Promised Land was the one he conjured on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, a place where God’s children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Dr. King’s impact, legacy, and mission remains alive today, and will far surpass the span of any lifetime. In fact, as I think about it, I am certain Dr. King intended his work to live beyond him; certainly he knew this great civil and human rights project would require much more than one generation to be realized. In this respect, he lives on within all of those willing to continue working where he left off.

During Dr. King’s era, the United States Supreme Court decided the landmark 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education. This case outlawed the separate-but-equal doctrine that had been the law of the land and ordered desegregation of public schools. Imagine signing up to register for school, and being told that you had to go to a particular school based on your race. There was a time when the spiritual heart of this nation found this acceptable, but the Brown v. Board of Education decision tore at the spiritual heart of all who believed that separate was equal in all facets of American society.

The decision was rarely respected and often ignored and went unenforced. Those in power worked tirelessly to devise ways to get around the high court decision. Blacks still were not free. But then came the early 1960s newsreel footage of Blacks being beaten and bitten by dogs held by law enforcement officers, all because of the quest for freedom. When President Lyndon Baines Johnson assumed the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination, presidents were bewitched by race in this country. Johnson however understood that when three civil rights workers – Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney – went missing and were found murdered in Mississippi in 1964, a new era had begun. On March 7, 1965, nine months after the Mississippi murders, Dr. King and other civil rights activists gathered in an attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in a quest for voting rights. A nation saw scores of marchers being viciously beaten. Northern cities were soon torched in widespread rioting. Johnson knew the time had come, that Blacks would not retreat. As a result of the efforts of Dr. King and other civil rights activist, Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, segregation at the workplace and segregation by public facilities that served the general public. And later due to the efforts of Dr. King, in 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

Dr. Berry’s and my college class in the mid-sixties were the first beneficiaries of this legislation set in motion by Dr. King. Our college classes represented the first large wave of African American youngsters admitted to impressive schools like DePaul, where Dr. Berry attended and Northwestern where I attended as a result of President Johnson signing into law what was probably the most powerful pieces of presidential legislation for Blacks since the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. Johnson’s presidency was dubbed Johnson’s “Great Society,” and because he was able to maneuver this legislation through Congress, after graduating from Wendell Phillips High School, an all-black high school located in a poor neighborhood on 39th Street on Chicago’s Southside, I was able to attend the prestigious Northwestern University. That fateful compilation of legislation, policy, and activism is part of what got me there, but not all. It opened the door, but the hinges, the door frame, the door knob, and the door itself were already there. It just needed to be opened. In addition to the true qualifications I already possessed—academic excellence, civic leadership, and character fitness— it was intestinal fortitude, determination to fulfill my vision, and community and family support that helped me to stay there and to continue my journey which has led me to where I am today.

Growing up the son of Baptist church secretary, I credit my mother for giving me confidence and a work ethic. I remember Mom meticulously checking my penmanship assignments, and making me start all over again if they were not perfect. Perhaps it was this formative exercise that equipped me for the law—it developed in me the attention to detail, precision, and scrutiny necessary to the profession. But more importantly, Mom taught me to believe that with God’s help, that all things are possible. I guess I was too young to know any better, but it turns out Mom was right. In many respects, my path to the law and ultimately to the circuit court bench began in Bronzeville, where Mom ensured I got a healthy dose of church each Sunday. She had me in there assisting with producing the church bulletins. I was in church from Sunday school in the morning until after the evening service. Mom was my greatest example of honesty, integrity, humility, stubbornness, love and dedication to duty. The depth and value of her love and sacrificial giving was immeasurable. She was something special – brusque, tart, often short-spoken. But when she prayed and I heard her call my name and ask God to bless me in a special way, all the gruffness was forgotten. She taught me to believe that “God is love,” and that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Put another way, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1. Through it all I achieved serenity to accept things I could not change, courage to change things I could and wisdom to know the difference.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:3, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. I can do all things. From the experience which Paul had in the various circumstances of life, he came to the general conclusion that he could “do all things.” He could bear any trial, perform any duty, subdue any evil propensity of his nature, and meet all temptations incident to any condition of prosperity or adversity. His own experience in the various changes of life had warranted him in arriving at this conclusion; and he expressed the firm confidence that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to perform. In Paul, this declaration was not a vain self-reliance, nor was it the mere result of his former experience. He knew well where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and on that arm that was able to hold him he confidently relied.

More than anything else, I got to where I am today through Christ Jesus who strengthened me – for as it is said in John 15:5, metaphorically, Jesus is described as a vine. I am the vine you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Of the strength which Jesus Christ can impart, Paul had had abundant experience; and now his whole reliance was there. It was not in any native ability which he had; not in any vigor of body or of mind; not in any power which there was in his own resources; it was in the strength that he derived from Christ. By that he was enabled to bear cold, fatigue, and hunger; by that, he met temptations and persecutions; and by that, he engaged in the performance of his arduous duties. The Lord has put on my heart to share with you this morning that when we put our faith in the message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we become empowered with the Holy Spirit and:

  • We need not sink under any trial, for there is one who can strengthen us.
  • We need not yield to temptation. There is one who is able to make a way out of no way.
  • We need not be harassed, and vexed, and tortured with improper thoughts and unholy desires. There is one who can enable us to banish such thoughts from the mind, and restore the right balance to the affections of the soul.
  • We need not dread what is to come. Trials, temptations, poverty, want, persecution, may await us; but we need not sink into despondency. At every step of life, Christ is able to strengthen us, and can bring us triumphantly through. It is a privilege to be a Christian – to feel, in the trials of life, that we have one friend, unchanging and most-mighty, who can always help us! Let us not shrink from duty; let us not dread persecution, let us not fear the bed of death. In all circumstances, Christ our unchanging Friend can uphold us. Let the eye and affections of the heart be fixed on Him; let the simple, fervent, believing prayer be directed always to him when trials come, when temptations assail, when duty presses hard upon us, and when the crowd of unholy and forbidden thoughts rush into the soul; and we shall be safe.

By God’s grace and mercy, I’ve been blessed with a legal career that has spanned over four decades. I’ve been in some tough fights and situations along the way. But my Redeemer, Christ Jesus, has seen me through all of my challenging experiences. He has sustained me. His love has reinforced me. His wisdom has guided me. His peace has comforted me. Anxiety and every fear I have been able to let go of because I know God will see you through.

Dr. King knew our country was embarking on a long twilight struggle against poverty and violence. We’ve got some difficult days ahead, he preached the night before he died on April 4, 1968. If Dr. King were alive today I am certain he would be aware of, and deeply worried by the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any kind, including the fundamentalism of hatred and acrimony espoused by President-Elect Donald Trump with “build the wall” rhetoric and his slandering and demonizing of immigrants and minorities. In 5 days from now today Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of our great country. It’s not just one man embracing and promoting these divisive themes but the new leader of our country with many fellow Americans cheering him on as he says it. This is a very dark path that we are walking down. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or if you will the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which negatively affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. The Black Lives Matter Movement has raised awareness of the violence in our cities, focusing on the horror of African-Americans threatened by the very police who are charged with protecting them. But the spike in murders and shootings in our communities, 788 murders in Chicago alone in 2016 – this bloody violence comes not from the actions of the police but from the actions of residents. Just Saturday, a week ago, I attended the funeral of Yuri Hardy, he was one of these victims. He was a Senior honor student at Urban Prep Academy-West Campus high school who was looking forward to going to college. Yuri loved to dance. On December 28th, I was invited to a talent show at the Austin Community field house where Yuri performed. As Yuri was walking home from his last performance, he was gunned down in the street. The victim of a random senseless drive-by shooting on the Westside of town. I’m told Yuri had a loving spirit and a peaceful heart. Yuri danced his last dance on December 28th and earned his Heavenly wings on December 29, 2016. He was only 19 years old. As the spike in murders continues, we witness a true national-security crisis. No civilized country can allow this level of violence to continue without mobilizing a response. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. But to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. This is something which we as a people must reject. If Dr. King were alive today he would say that our response must be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. The effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments and thus promoting the well-being of all individuals and peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good. The challenges facing us today call for a spirit of cooperation. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon given on February 4, 1968, he asked us to summons the courage and intelligence to resolve today’s many crises through service and love. He said he knew a man – and he wanted to talk about him because he was a great one. And that this man just went about serving. He was born in an obscure village, and the child of a poor peasant woman. And then he grew up in still another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. Then for three years, he just got on his feet, and he was an itinerant preacher. And he went about doing some things. He didn’t have much. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never went two hundred miles from where he was born. He did none of the things that the world would associate with greatness. He had no credential but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. They called him a rabble-rouser. They called him a troublemaker. They said he was an agitator. He practiced civil disobedience; he broke injunctions. And so he was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. And the irony of it all is that his friends turned him over to them. One of his closest friends denied him. Another of his friends turned him over to his enemies. And while he was dying, the people who killed him gambled for his clothing, the only possessions that he had in the world. When he was dead he was buried in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone and today he stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all of the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life. His name may be a familiar one. But today I can hear them talking about him. Every now and then somebody says, “He’s King of Kings.” And again I can hear somebody saying, “He’s Lord of Lords.” Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, “In Christ there is no East or West.” And then they go on and talk about, “In Him there’s no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world.” He didn’t have anything. He just went around serving and doing good.

Today you can be on His right hand and His left hand if you serve with love and allow the Holy Spirit to order your steps in God’s Word. To lead us, guide us every day and send His anointing when we pray. To teach us His will while we are working. To help us to be still cause Satan is busy and God is real. To let Him write on our tongues and to let our words edify and let these words of our mouth be acceptable in His sight. To take charge of our thoughts both day and night and to order our steps in God’s Word. To order our tongue; To guide our feet; To wash our heart; To show us how to walk; and when we need a brand new song to sing, to show us how to let His praises ring. We want to be worthy, according to His will. The world is ever changing but He is still the same. If we ask Him to please Order our steps and we praise His name it’s the way to restore sanity to our insane world.

Regardless of any test, facing us, Jesus will see us through. His methods are often far beyond and above anything you can consciously know or conceive of. The answers you seek will not come, not by force or human reason, nor by struggle and strain, but by means of the Holy Spirit ever at work within your mind, heart, soul, body and life. Jesus will see you through, bringing the right answers through the right channels, at the right time and in the right place. Jesus will work through the right persons and circumstances. Jesus will see you through in the best way for the greatest good of all concerned. Now just tell yourself persistently and firmly that Jesus will see you through, and then let him.

Let us pray. Please close your eyes, bow your heads, and open your heart and let the love that emanates and flows from your heart, envelope and embrace this holy place.

We thank our Heavenly Creator for the all the blessings we have known, we offer a Prayer of Thanksgiving for we are not alone. In all our ways acknowledge God and he shall direct our path, so in humble adoration we proclaim our God how great thou are. We thank you for waking us up this morning and putting a smile upon our face. We thank you for ordering our steps to this uniquely holy place. Thank you for all the blessings you have seen fit to bestow upon us, blessing seen and unseen by us. Impart in us the wisdom that what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us. Teach us to give without expecting. Teach us to take without forgetting. Teach us to sweep up around our own front door, before we go telling others to sweep up around theirs. Continue to light the way when the road is long and dark and keep us company, and when we are weary and in need of repair let us look to the Heavens and see Your face and know that you are near.

Mighty God of all creation, loving God of my salvation. Wrap your heavenly arms around us, and lead and guide and direct us each and every day, in each and every way. In our hearts we honor the sacredness of all life. Help us to remember that all life is a holy gift and that all people are worthy of this blessing. We are grateful for your gifts, but we are not yet truly satisfied. There is still too much trouble in the world, too much hunger and despair, too much hate, too much violence, and too much war. So we are thankful but we cannot yet be fully content. Forgive us God, for all the damage we have done to our planet and to each other. Forgive us, God for all we have not yet done to begin the work of healing the damage we have caused. We pray that you will stir our hearts with compassion from your Holy Spirit. We pray that you will give our bodies the strength we need, that we might lift our arms in action as we lift them to you in praise. Help us to bring hope to those who are in despair, to bind up the broken hearted, to feed the hungry, to tend to the sick, to care for each other, to care for the Earth, and to bring freedom, justice and mercy to all who are oppressed in body and in spirit. Send us forth today full of gratitude and with a renewed commitment to bring more peace and generosity into our lives, and into the lives of others. Stay with us and guide our steps in mindfulness, strength, compassion and courage. Help us to heal this hurting world. Help us to honor the sacredness of life. Bless our children in a special way we pray. Bless each and every one of us and Blessing on the world. May Peace be with us as begin in this New Year and as we commemorate the great and enduring works of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. We offer our prayer in your Son Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Benediction: Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that as we leave here today may we give ourselves to your service, and live this day and ever more in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

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