Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sermon: Beyond Our Dreams

Beyond Our Dreams

Dr. Martin Luther King’s most famous speech has to be the amazing “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It may be because of the magnitude of the gathering that this speech has become the hallmark of Dr. King’s legacy. But there seems to be something more to it. It was this particular speech in which Dr. King had the audacity to dream of a world that was fundamentally better, a world where the tables had turned. It was a world some believed could come into being only after revolutionary change had occurred.
Dr. King had the passion to have this dream, and to share it publicly. Today I want to talk about what it meant for Dr. King to dream, and what it means for us to dream about our future as a religious community.

Since the time the Dr. King gave that speech, the world has changed tremendously. The rights of the Black community and access to political power have increased phenomenally. Women’s access to power has increased, and the BGLT movement that was just getting started when King spoke has made tremendous strides. And then there is the obvious leap that occurred last year. The United States of American has its first Black president.

This all begs the question, has the dream come true. Or are we at least closer to the world that Dr. King envisioned not so many years ago. Well despite some of the over inflated language of political pundits basking in the glow of Obama’s inauguration, no, the dream has not come true. There is still tremendous economic and political disparity between whites and people of color in the United States. Women still earn less money than their male counterparts of the same jobs, and BGLT people still struggle for simple legal rights.

But, we are closer. We are not there yet, but we are closer. And such is the nature of a dream. We are forever moving closer, even if we may never get there. This was the truth about justice work that King new. The perfect world, the beloved community, they are a dream, a far off goal. Certainly a noble goal, but a goal that we may never, most likely will never see in this lifetime.

There is another famous speech of Dr. King’s probably the second most famous. This was the speech that he delivered in 1968 the night before his assisination. It was filled with images of Moses going to the Mountain top. King said:

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

The delivery of these words that night before his own assassination is perhaps one of the most poignant moments of American history. It is almost as if King knew that his life would be cut short, if not by a bullet then some other embodiment of hatred. He knew deep down that he would not live long enough to see that the end of the struggle for justice.

On the night before his own death King proclaimed that he had been to the mountain top and assured his people that they would indeed get to the promised land. What a powerful night.
However, if we are to really know Dr. King, and know about his sense of a dream, we should realize that that fateful night was not the first time he used those words. In fact he used the same mountain top images in many of his speeches throughout his public life. King knew, that not only would he not see the promised land, but also we might never see the promised land. He knew that it was a long, long ways away. He knew that dreams, are not a blueprint for the future. Dreams are an inspiration that keep our spirits alive and keep us moving forward.

And that’s what makes the dream so powerful. Because it is just outside of our grasp. It is out there, it is revolutionary. King went to the mountain top; he had the audacity to dream of a different world. But those dreams were not a specific plan. Remember the dreams that he spoke of.

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 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.

All men are created equal, sitting together at the table of brotherhood, people being judged by the content of their character. This is the language of dreams. This is the language of a revolutionary change, a change that cannot be measured in dollars or votes, or even who sits in the oval office. This is a dream that King knew, and we still know is a long ways off. It’s a dream that’s nearly impossible, which is the only type of dream worth fighting for.

Following our dreams means engaging in some very hard and scary work. Remember our responsive reading today. Those words from Desmond Tutu were also inspired by the story of Exodus. The same story that King refers to when he talks about having been to the mountain top. It is the quintessential story of liberation in the Bible. And the story is a long and painful one. It is a story of a few weeks of liberation from Egypt, and then forty years of wondering in the dessert.

So our dreams are way off, we may never see them realized. And any movement toward our dreams is hard work, with years and years of waiting in the desert. Hm, that doesn’t sound like such an attractive offer does it. What makes this all worth it. We may never see our dreams become a reality, and it’s really hard work, so why bother? What’s the incentive.

I think relief comes in two different ways. First grace comes in the moments of knowing that we are doing the right thing. So much of our lives are tied up in deadlines and things we have to do to. But occasionally there are moments of real meaning, moments of realizing what I am doing here and now is making my world a better place. Those moments are brilliant and rare. That’s the first piece of grace that we see. But, conviction and confidence can be dubious. These same rewards are available to people throughout the world, some showering the world with love, and some engaging in violent acts, I would even say evil acts.

I imagine most of you have heard by now how Pat Roberson suggested that the horrible disaster, the earthquake that struck Haiti was some how God’s revenge for the country’s “pact with the Devil.” One can only presume that this is a reference to Haiti’s history with religious practices of voodoo. His comments are absurd, they are hurtful, they are blasphemous. Normally I would avoid acknowledging them. However it is simply too good of an example of what is NOT the beloved community. Pat Robertson’s message of violence and hatred and exclusion is in fact the antithesis of everything that we are trying to do. So I thank you Mr. Robertson, wherever you are, for giving us such a wonderfully absurd example of bad religion.

Conviction alone is not our reward, for conviction comes easily when one feels a deep calling. Our reward, our grace is in the community that we create with every step following the dream It is the beloved community. The community where we sit together and share together and struggle together. The community where we come to know each other deeply, so that we might finally come to realize that all people are created equal. In pursuit of our dream we pause to sit together at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood. And in that community, in our community, we know that we will not be judged by our outside appearance, but by what resets in our hearts.

That is why we follow the dream. That is why we walk through the desert, year after year, knowing that someday our people will see the promised land. It’s not just for the destination that is still such a long ways off, it is for the company on the journey. The beloved company. The beloved community.

I want to wrap up today’s worship with a little bit about my dream, and what I have understood to be more or less our dream as a congregation. I’m not talking about a five-year plan, or objectives, or time-lines. I’m talking about a dream of who we can be in this world, a promised land that we might strive for.

I tread lightly piggy backing on one of the most amazing and influential men in modern history. King’s I have a dream speech has been used to market all sorts of things, some of the noble, others simple profiteering. The last thing I want to do is cheapen the legacy of Dr. King and I don’t think we are. When we have the audacity to envision a religious community that changes our world, our dream is a fitting comparison. When we have the audacity to dream of a church that stands up for the rights of all those who are disenfranchised, we are in the company of Dr. King’s legacy. When we dream of a church where all people are welcome, not part of them, not where they are invited to leave a part of themselves at the door, but a church where all people are welcomed and embraced for who they are, we take up the call of Dr. King and other dreamers throughout time.

My dream is that we become a congregation that will nurture the spirit and heal the world. I dream of a Sunday morning that comforts and challenges and inspires anyone who walks through our doors, anyone, regardless of age, theology, race or education, or any other false wall that divides us. And I dream of a church that changes our world. I dream of a church that changes the world not just talking of justice here between these four walls, but making justice out there in the world. I dream of a church that will nurture the spirit and heal the world.

I have to tell you now that I do believe this dream is possible. This is deeply personal to me. Believe me, I would not be here in the pulpit, I would not be the minister of this congregation, or any congregation for that matter, if I didn’t believe deep down that churches can nurture the spirit and change the world. It is a real possibility my friends.

It is a big goal, it is a dream. Many of us may not be around long enough to see that dream become a perfect reality. But, remember our reward, our grace is not dependent on the completion of the project. Our grace comes with the beloved community that we create along the journey.

So won’t you join me on the journey toward that dream, our dream. Because together I do believe that we can nurture the spirita and heal the world. Together we can do amazing things.

I want you to join me in singing now. Our closing hymn isn’t so much a closing hymn as the last piece of my sermon. And it’s a piece that we’re all going to do together. I’d like everyone to stand as you are comfortable a join in singing, hymn # 95. Because, There is more love somewhere and We’re gonna keep on, till we find it. Won’t you join me in singing.

No comments:

Post a Comment