“14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world….. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:14-18
Listen to: Mahalia Jackson "If I Can Help Somebody" (A favorite of Dr. King's)
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the songs of former slavers and the songs of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood… I have a dream that my four little 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 that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as brothers and sisters…I have a dream today.”
This week end, excerpts from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” will be heard on television, read in newspapers and internet posts and in other ways highlight the civil rights leader assassinated 48 years ago. It was a moving speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Some considered it one of King’s milder speeches, not as prophetic as other sermons and speeches he delivered. Yet the “I Have a Dream” speech has endured in the American psyche as an emblem of possibility and hope.
What keeps the “I Have a Dream” speech an American icon is the passion and integrity of Dr. King himself. It was his faithful discipleship as a Christian that shaped who he was and made him capable of producing such an enduring message. His word and action were one. He spoke truth to a nation embroiled in the sin of racism. Because of this the witness he bore touched and transformed lives.
Such is the power of God’s Word, Jesus, and his word which lives and is active within us. As a result we are able to speak and live with integrity and power too, like Dr. King. So our Christian living is not about promoting specific dogmas and “right teachings.” Our discipleship is an apprenticeship in being, in living the truth, which resides deep in us. Our words and actions are meant to flow from this core of inner truth, this truth of love, justice and mercy that Jesus speaks to us. This truth activates our ability to act and speak with love; and to speak truthfully to the injustice, wrongs as well as the dreams and visions and goodness that surround us.
When Jesus died, he didn’t leave behind any writings, any by-laws, any buildings or possessions. He left behind disciples, who had that living word inside themselves. That was enough. It is enough for us to start a revolution of love and justice as well.
When Dr. King died, the movement he started didn’t die with him. His words go on challenging us. Dr. King, in the last year of his life, made the connections between poverty, militarism and war. No wonder J. Edgar Hoover called King the most dangerous man in America. Truth, connected to being, word and action is powerful. King was a fallible but faithful disciple of Jesus. There is nothing more powerful than that.
The gospel calls us out of fragmented living to a place of wholeness and power, which can only be realized in the context of community. A few months before he was assassinated, Dr. King spoke and shared from one of his favorite hymns by Mahalia Jackson, “If I Can Help Somebody.” Dr. King said, “Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right side or your left side, not for any selfish reason…But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.”
Let this word, borne of truth, reside deep in our hearts, move our hearts and bring us closer to Jesus and to each other. Let us speak the truth living in us to our old world… and continue through loving word and action make of this old world a new world.
Prayer: God of Truth: May your living word dwell within us and lead us to all truth. May our words and deeds bear fruit of your truth in our searching, hurting world and bring it to wholeness. Amen