I Have a Dream – A Prophetic Speech now 50 years old.

Martin Luther King

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous I Have A Dream speech. So often we sanitize the speech, editing it down to a few small quotes that don’t cause any discomfort or disturbance to our way of life. But there is far more to Martin Luther’s speech than that. I reflected on this on Matin Luther King Day this last January in my post Let Us Do What is Right
but wanted to remind us of this auspicious day and implications this week too.

Read through this quote and then the short liturgy that follows. Think about the places you know of where this dream is still unrealized. What can you do to change this?

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we shout for justice,

And as one we fight against oppression.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we seek God’s righteousness

And as one we sing God’s praise.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we climb God’s mountain,

And as one we enter the promised land.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom,

And as one we enjoy its peace, and abundance and love.

(Adapted from Psalm 72:1-10, & Amos 5:24)

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

Please help those of us who are rich to be honest and fair just like you, our God.

May we who have such abundance be honest and fair with all your people, especially the poor.

Let peace and justice rule every mountain and fairness flow as a river that never runs dry.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

May we your people defend the poor, rescue the homeless, and crush everyone who hurts them.

May we be as helpful as rain that refreshes the ground, to those who are treated unjustly.

Let the wholeness and fairness of your kingdom live forever like the sun and the moon.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

Because you our God rescue the homeless and have pity on those who hurt

May we who are rich stand up for the poor and let peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.

Let God’s kingdom of justice and fairness reach from sea to sea, across all the earth.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry

Amen. 

Let Us Do What Is Right – A Reflection On Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

This morning two images have merged in my mind. This Martin Luther King quote from the Idealist  and another quote from Randy Woodley’s book Shalom and the Community of Creation

When we cease to trust the Creator for our daily provision, evil takes over and oppression occurs. Shalom, with its embedded concern for the poor, the marginalized, the animals, the birds and the earth, is the divinely preferred way for humans to live. Justice and righteousness are weapons to be employed in order to combat evil, once the systems begin to become corrupted. Truth, which I define here as following the natural paths of God’s intentions, is also one of the main weapons that humans have been given in order to fight the temptation towards self-reliance (80)

When we don’t do what is right and trust our God for provision but rely instead on the values of greed, exploitation and oppression, evil does indeed take over. We have seen it in the enslavement and genocide of peoples. We have seen it in the confiscation of native lands. And we have seen it in the destruction of the earth’s animals and habitats. My home country Australia is suffering from record breaking temperatures that have soared to over 50C or 122F. sparking hundreds of bushfires.  The government’s climate commission admits that climate change had contributed to making the extreme heat conditions and bushfires even worse.

Surely there has never been a better time to refuse to look the other way. All of us need to do what is right for those who are still oppressed and marginalized in our world. We need to do what is right to reduce emissions and reduce our consumption to contribute our small bit to the fight against climate change.

As Martin Luther King suggests, our souls suffer along with our bodies and our world when we do not do what is right. I pray that today all of us will catch a fresh glimpse of God’s incredible shalom kingdom in which all humanity is set free, creation is restored and we all live together in peace, harmony and mutual concern.

What do you think?

Why Does a Good God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

Today is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States, the day on which we remember this great Christian leader and his incredible contribution to justice.  It seems such an appropriate day to grapple with the question Why does a good God allow bad things to happen? Most of us are still reeling under the impact of what has happened in Haiti and are probably remembering other incidents in which we have struggled to understand the goodness of God in the midst of tragedy and heartache – both personal and societal.

I have been thinking about this ever since Eugene Cho asked the question If there were a God, would he have allowed this to happen, on his blog a few days ago.

And I think that a good place to start is with this video of Martin Luther King’s last speech.

Unfortunately there are no easy answers to the questions about evil, maybe partly because it is nor really the question we should be asking.  I think that a better question to ask is How would God have us respond in the face of evil?

Asking the question Why does God allow evil? tends to let us off the hook.  It puts the responsibility on God and not on us to respond or to prevent the eruptions of evil that are constantly breaking out in our world.  It also gives us a place outside ourselves to focus our anger without feeling personally involved.  

There are many bad things that happen in our world – some of them we are more aware of than others – like the earthquake in Haiti and the death of Martin Luther King.  But others, equally bad things happen in secret – the biggest killer in our world is still poverty, often contributed to by the injustice of inequities between rich and poor.  Even the death toll in Haiti has been contributed to by the poverty of the nation which does not have the high building standards of wealthier nations.  Evidently because of lack of resources and the high cost of building safe structures, poor nations mix a lot more sand with their cement and so the resulting building materials are weaker and the buildings more vulnerable.

Other evils occur in even more secret places.  Children are sold into sex trafficking, women are raped, men, women and children die of disease and war.  All of these are equally as bad as the situation in Haiti, yet they don’t always get the publicity or the compassionate response from our hearts.

I think many of us live in comfortable bubbles in which we are unaware of or untouched by the brokenness of our world.  Either deliberately or unintentionally we shut ourselves off from the evil that distorts our own lives, the lives of our loved ones and even the world in which we live.  So when that brokenness is thrown in our faces as seems to have happened with Haiti, we do not know how to respond. Or we can brush it off with pious platitudes – God’s ways are not our ways or God is judging people for their sins.

Confronting evil in our lives and in our world should draw us deeper into the heart of a loving, caring God who wants to respond and who has chosen us as instruments of that response.  God grieves, with us, in us and through us.  God also responds with us in us and through us…. if we will allow that response.

This morning I watched as 4 people were pulled out of a building alive – after most people had given up hope of any more survivors.  I watched the rescue workers renewed  to new efforts in spite of their tiredness and their own grief.  I thought what a wonderful image of a loving God who will never give up as long as there is the possibility of rescuing one more human being from the rubble of our broken and fallen world.

What, I wonder would this world look like if we lived constantly as instruments of God’s love and compassion?  Perhaps so much of the evil we struggle with would be transformed into love and the suffering of our world would be transformed into God’s joy.

What do you think?